US officials shoot grizzly bear following fatal attack on woman

Campsites in Montana town closed until DNA tests are carried out on dead animal

Authorities hunted for the animal over three days, using helicopters and searchers on the ground. Photograph: iStock

Authorities hunted for the animal over three days, using helicopters and searchers on the ground. Photograph: iStock


A grizzly bear that pulled a woman from her tent and killed her in Montana has been shot dead by wildlife officials using night-vision goggles to stake out a chicken coop where they had set a trap.

Federal wildlife workers shot the bear shortly after midnight on Friday when it approached the trap about two miles from Ovando, where 65-year-old Leah Davis Lokan, of Chico, California, had been killed on Tuesday, said Greg Lemon of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The bear had raided the chicken coop overnight on Wednesday, and officials set a baited trap nearby hoping to lure the animal back, Mr Lemon said. Local authorities said campsites in town will remain closed until DNA evidence from the animal comes back.

“Based on the size of the bear, the colour of the bear and the nature of the chicken coop raids, we’re confident we’ve got the offending bear,” he said.

Mr Lemon said tracks found at the coop matched those near the attack in Ovando.

The town along the banks of the Blackfoot River — made famous by the movie A River Runs Through It — has fewer than 100 people and borders a huge expanse of forested land that stretches to the Canadian border. The region is home to an estimated 1,000 grizzlies.

Bear attacks on people are relatively rare, particularly in inhabited areas, and Ovando businesses cater to adventurous tourists, including cyclists like Ms Lokan who are allowed to pitch their tents in town.

Investigators gathered DNA evidence from the attack and will compare it to samples gathered from the dead grizzly, which was taken to a state wildlife laboratory in Bozeman for a post-mortem, Mr Lemon said.

Until then, Powell County sheriff Gavin Roselles said he will maintain a closure on outdoor campsites in Ovando.

Ms Lokan, a registered nurse who worked at a hospital in Chico, was an experienced outdoors enthusiast and cyclist who was on a mountain biking trip. She and two companions were camping behind the Ovando post office when she was attacked.

Friends described her as a free spirit and competitive — and aware of the dangers she faced on the trip.

The estimated 400lb bear awakened Ms Lokan and her companions in a nearby tent at about 3am on Tuesday, officials said. After the bear ran away, the campers removed food from their tents, secured them and went back to sleep, Montana wildlife officials say.

About 15 minutes later, the bear was seen on a video camera at a business about a block away from the post office, wildlife officials said.

At about 4.15am, the sheriff’s office received a 911 call after two people in a tent near the victim’s were awakened by sounds of the attack, Mr Roselles said. They used bear spray and the animal ran away.

The bear is also believed to have entered a chicken coop in town that night, killing and eating several chickens.

Authorities hunted for the animal over three days, using helicopters and searchers on the ground and setting out five large traps made from steel culverts and baited with roadkill. – PA