Montana Wildlife Officials Concerned Killer Grizzly Didn’t Show Fear of People

Montana officials are concerned about a grizzly bear's lack of fear of humans and populated areas shown just hours before attacking and killing a woman.

Ellen Fike

July 08, 20213 min read

Bear victim scaled
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are concerned that a grizzly bear believed to be responsible for killing a woman earlier this week showed no fear of humans or populated areas in the hours before the attack occurred.

Greg Lemon, spokesman for the department, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that officials are still looking for the grizzly that pulled the 65-year-old woman out of her tent Tuesday morning and killed her near Ovando, Montana.

“We’ve got traps out and some folks out in the area searching for him,” Lemon said. “We flew in helicopters around the area and looked on the ground, but we didn’t come up with anything.”

However, a video taken of the bear the night of the attack is of high enough quality that officials believe they could identify the bear when and if it is captured.

Plus, FWP officials have taken DNA samples from the victim, which can help them identify the bear.

Lemon noted it is incredibly rare for a bear to kill a person, especially unprovoked, adding that in his memory, the last time a bear attacked a person without provocation was a decade ago in a campground near Yellowstone National Park.

“In the vast majority of instances, the bears are doing what they normally do, such as protecting their cubs or a food source,” Lemon said. “It’s unfortunate when people get hurt, but most grizzly encounters don’t end in injury to the bear or the human.”

He added it was unusual the bear didn’t seem to have much fear of humans or populated places, since it came back to the campground after being chased away and also went into Ovando to look for other food sources.

According to the Powell County, Montana, Sheriff’s Office, three campers were spending the night in their tents outside of an Ovando museum Tuesday.

At approximately 3 a.m., a 400-pound male grizzly awakened the campers, but ran away.

The campers removed food from their tents and secured it in an area designated for food storage before going back to bed. While Lemon said this could have been a reason for the bear being interested in the victim’s tent, it was still unusual for it to be so aggressive.

A security camera at a business a block away captured footage of the bear at 3:15 a.m.

Fifteen minutes later, two people in a tent were awakened by screams as the grizzly returned and pulled the victim out of her tent.

The campers sprayed the grizzly with bear spray, causing it to retreat. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials said the bear at some point in the evening killed and ate several chickens after breaking into a chicken coop in the town.

The bear will be killed if FWP officials manage to catch him. If not, they will keep his DNA sample on file and hope there are no more aggressive encounters between the bear and livestock, pets or humans.

“This isn’t our typical response when we have a bear encounter, but given the circumstances and the bear’s behavior, this just isn’t acceptable,” Lemon said.

All campsites in Ovando will be closed until Sunday. 

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Ellen Fike