FWP releases report about grizzly bear attack on woman near Libby

Posted at 4:31 PM, Jun 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-21 18:31:50-04

(GREAT FALLS) The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Wildlife Human Attack Response Team has completed its investigation into a bear attack that left a woman badly-injured in the Cabinet Mountains south of Libby last month.

The report states that it was a 24-year-old male grizzly bear that attacked Amber Kornak; she was working as a field assistant for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on a grizzly bear research project

At approximately 11 a.m. on May 17, Kornak sustained serious injuries after surprising the adult male grizzly bear. 

The attack, described by investigators as a surprise defensive encounter, occurred after Kornak walked within 11-12 feet of the bear. Neither the bear nor the victim could likely see or hear each other due to environmental factors and noise resulting from nearby high-water runoff and rain and wind, according to lead investigator Brian Sommers. The bear was in front of and to the left of the woman prior to the attack.

After the attack, Kornak activated her Garmin inReach Global Satellite device that sent out an emergency notification. She walked about two miles from the scene to her vehicle and drove an additional miles miles before encountering another vehicle, which then took her to an ambulance. Along U.S. Highway 2, ALERT Air Ambulance arrived and airlifted her to Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

DNA analysis of hair collected in the investigation identified the bear as a 24-year-old male grizzly bear that was captured in 2005 as part of a research project. The bear has spent its entire life in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem and is one of the original grizzly bears in the ecosystem, according to Wayne Kasworm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Biologist and team leader for grizzly bear recovery in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem. The grizzly is not an augmentation bear.

Over the years, this bear has left numerous hair samples on scratch and rub sites throughout the ecosystem, which spans approximately 2,600 square miles across the Yaak Valley and the Cabinet and Purcell mountain ranges of northwest Montana and northern Idaho. The ecosystem is home to a relatively small population of grizzly bears estimated at 53 bears.

The WHART investigation included on-site visits, victim interviews, evidence collection and analysis.


(MAY 20, 2018) A fundraising account has been created to help the woman who was attacked by a bear south of Libby several days ago. The woman sustained injuries in the attack that happened on Thursday in a remote area of the Cabinet Mountains.

Authorities have not yet determined whether it was grizzly bear or a black bear.

The GoFundMe page states, in part:

Please keep our dear Amber Kornak and her family in your thoughts and prayers. As those who know her may know, it has been Amber’s dream to work with grizzly bears. She recently accepted a seasonal position in Libby, Montana for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Grizzly Bear Wildlife Technician.  

On the morning of Thursday, May 17th, 2018, while  working alone remotely in the Cabinet Mountains south of Libby, MT she was mauled by a bear, suffering 2 skull fractures as well as severe lacerations to her head, neck, and back. As the bear attacked her from behind she was able to reach her bear spray and spray the deterrent to ward off the bear, and also spraying herself. Amber’s wildlife training skills kicked in, and she somehow managed to stay calm and hike 2 miles from the site of the attack to her work vehicle where she then drove to find help.

She endured 4 grueling hours of surgery to remove bone fragments and clean wounds to her brain. Metal plates and screws were placed on her skull and drains were placed in her brain to relieve brain swelling and drain fluid. Her condition is now stable, and she is recovering in the ICU where they can keep her comfortable with pain medications and monitor her for seizures (from the brain swelling) and watch for signs of infection (from the extent of her wounds). 

Click here if you would like to help.

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