GREAT FALLS — After two days of searching on the ground and by helicopter, the grizzly bear that killed a woman Tuesday morning has not yet been found. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bear specialists and wardens are continuing to monitor culvert traps set in the area.
The Powell County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday identified 65-year-old Leah Davis Lokan of Chico, California, as the woman who died.
The search has included the use of infrared technology from a Two Bear Air helicopter from Kalispell, but efforts to find the bear are now focusing on traps near Ovando.
FWP said in a news release that the bear entered town Tuesday morning and came to an area near the post office at about 3 a.m., where the victim was sleeping in a tent. Another couple in her party were sleeping in a tent nearby.
The bear woke the campers but then ran away. The three campers removed food from their tents, secured it, and went back to bed.
A video camera at a business less than a block away recorded the bear in the vicinity at about 3:15 a.m.
At about 3:30 a.m. the two people in the tent adjacent to the victim were awakened by sounds of the attack. They got out of the tent and sprayed the bear with bear spray. It has not been seen since.
The bear pulled the victim from the tent during the fatal attack.
At some point during the night the bear also got into a chicken coop in town, killing and eating several chickens.
While the initial search for the bear was unsuccessful, FWP wardens and bear specialists are monitoring the area closely. “At this point, our best chance for catching this bear will be culvert traps set in the area near the chicken coop where the bear killed and ate several chickens,” said Randy Arnold, FWP regional supervisor in Missoula.
FWP bear experts believe the bear was an approximately 400-pound male, judging by behavior and footprints. DNA from the bear was collected at the scene of the attack and will be analyzed. Should a bear be caught in a trap, DNA can quickly be compared to the DNA already collected to determine if it is the same animal.
The Powell County Sheriff's Office posted on Facebook: "Traps have been set in the area and searching will continue by ground and in the air with the priority of keeping the public safe from another encounter. Campsites in Ovando have been closed until Sunday and we encourage anyone in the area to be cautious and aware that as of now the bear in question has not been located."
Anyone who spots a grizzly bear near Ovando should call the FWP Missoula office at 406-542-5500. We will update you as we get more information.
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