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Fatal Bear Attack: Campsite Closed as Officials Search for Grizzly

Grizzly Sow and Cubs walking close together(Photo/Tim Rains, National Park Service)
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A female cyclist was mauled to death after camping in a tent at a Montana campground.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park’s Wildlife Attack Response Team is actively searching for a bear following the fatal mauling of a female cyclist who had been sleeping in a tent early on Tuesday morning.

The bear attack occurred at a campsite in Ovando, Montana, 75 miles northwest of Helena. The woman’s identity is unreleased, pending notification of her relatives.

According to the press release, initial search efforts closed the locale off to campers while officials tried to locate the bear. The bear in question is most likely a grizzly — one was seen passing through the Ovando campgrounds just hours before the incident.

A local business’s video surveillance captured footage of a grizzly bear within the perimeter on Monday night. Although grizzlies are common in the area, Powell County Sheriff Gavin Roselles said that the species has not been confirmed.

If found and captured, the bear involved in Tuesday’s mauling will be neutralized. According to Greg Lemon, a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks representative, killing a bear is condoned only when the bear poses an ongoing threat to public safety. Maulings that result from “surprise encounters” or a mother’s protection of her cubs are typically met with relocation efforts, not a death penalty.

Update: Grizzly Bear Evades Capture

Today, Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks reported that after 2 days of searching by helicopter and on the ground, the grizzly bear has not been found. The search even included the use of infrared technology from Two Bear Air Rescue out of Kalispell. Bear specialists will continue to monitor and trap in the area.

“At this point, our best chance for catching this bear will be culvert traps set in the area,” said Randy Arnold, FWP regional supervisor in Missoula, Montana.

Bear experts believe the bear was an approximately 400-pound male grizzly, judging by behavior and footprints. Specialists collected DNA from the bear at the scene of the attack for analysis.

Anyone who spots a grizzly bear near Ovando should call the FWP Missoula office at 406-542-5500.

Bear Attacks Rare, But on the Rise

Ovando, Montana, lies within the Blackfoot Valley and borders the Bob Marshall wilderness territory. The territory is home to the lower 48’s densest grizzly population — nearly 1,000 grizzlies per recent estimates. That said, fatal bear attacks within the region are very infrequent — Tuesday’s fatality is just the third in 20 years.

But Montana has seen an uptick in the number of human/bear encounters in 2021. A wilderness guide died following a mauling by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park just last April. It’s a trend that follows a rise in residential and tourist populations over the past decade — and one that wildlife experts expect to continue.

Authorities hope to release identifying information about the victim’s identity on Thursday, pending notification of the family.

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