Saturday, July 12, 2014

Latest Update on Bear Attack near Columbia Falls

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) personnel are still investigating a bear attack on a woman who was running with her dogs on Forest Service property in the Cedar Flats area north of Columbia Falls. The attack occurred late in the morning of July 3rd.

According to FWP investigator Brian Somers, the bear ran from the trees and attacked one of the dogs. The runner yelled at the bear, then lay on her side on the ground. The bear charged and grabbed the runner just above the hip area, biting her several times. The bear then turned back to the dogs. The runner sat up and the bear returned and bit her on the head several times. The bear then released its grip and ran back into the woods. The dogs ran off. According to Sommers, the victim was not armed with bear pepper spray. Later, the victim’s husband came back and retrieved the dogs which were injured but alive. This account is based on initial interviews and site visits. Sommers will be piecing together the final details of the incident over the coming weeks

“Running with dogs can be a potential hazard, “says FWP Bear and Lion Specialist Erik Wenum. “A dog running off-leash can encounter a bear or other animal, and potentially bring the bear back to the owner.” Wenum adds that all hikers or runners should carry bear pepper spray as a safety precaution.

Several things about the bear are still unknown. Although investigators believe it was a black bear, this is uncertain. The victim told investigators that she thought it was a black bear. Also uncertain are the sex of the bear and the presence of cubs. Investigators have been unable to locate the offending bear. The trap set for the bear last week has been removed; no activity was noted at the trap site. The USFS will open the Cedar Flats trail area this afternoon.

According to FWP Investigator Brian Sommers, the victim is recovering from several bites in the torso and head area, and claw wounds, after being released from the North Valley Hospital on the day of the attack. This type of surprise encounter is unfortunate and FWP wishes the victim a complete recovery.

“All of northwest Montana is bear country,” says Wenum. “Besides carrying pepper spray, hikers should be aware of their surroundings at all times.”

Hiking in Glacier National Park

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