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Woman hospitalized after bear attack in Flathead County

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Woman hospitalized after bear attack in Flathead County

Oct 03, 2023 | 12:50 pm ET
By Daily Montanan Staff
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Woman hospitalized after bear attack in Flathead County
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A grizzly bear (Photo by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Program via FLICKR | Creative Commons license).

A 73-year-old woman was hospitalized after a bear attack north of Polebridge in Flathead County on Sunday, according to a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks press release.

The woman was walking with her husband and dog on national forestland when a bear emerged from thick brush and attacked her, according to the release. Her husband deployed bear spray and the bear moved away from the victim. They returned to their vehicle and drove to a location where they could call emergency services.

The encounter took place along the bank of Trail Creek a few miles west of North Fork Road. An air ambulance transported the victim to Logan Health Medical Center in Kalispell.

The type of bear is unconfirmed. FWP wardens and bear specialists are actively investigating the incident and monitoring the site along Trail Creek known as the “Bubble ups” where the creek flows underground before rising to the surface. The site is closed while the investigation continues.

This altercation follows a series of human and bear interactions in Montana– a woman was killed by a grizzly near West Yellowstone in July and grizzlies have been shot by hunters at least six times in recent months.

Bears are active in fall for longer periods as they consume more food in preparation for hibernation, the release said. This period overlaps with hunting season and other fall recreation activities.

FWP advises avoiding conflicts with bears is easier than dealing with conflicts and gives the following tips for recreating safely in bear country:

  • Carry bear spray and be prepared to use it immediately.
  • Make noise to alert bears to your presence and travel in groups.
  • Stay away from animal carcasses, which often attract bears.
  • Follow food storage orders from the applicable land management agency.
  • If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Leave the area when it is safe to do so.
  • If you are attacked by a bear and you are without a deterrent or the deterrent hasn’t worked, stay face down on the ground, protecting your face and neck with your arms. Stay still until you’re certain the bear has moved away.
  • Keep garbage, bird feeders, pet food and other attractants put away in a secure building. Keep garbage in a secure building until the day it is collected. Certified bear-resistant garbage containers are available in many areas.
  • Never feed wildlife. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose threats to human safety. It is illegal to feed bears in Montana.

People who hunt in places that have or may have grizzly bears—which includes northwest Montana—should take special precautions:

  • Carry bear spray and be prepared to use it immediately.
  • Look for bear sign and be cautious around creeks and areas with limited visibility.
  • Hunt with a group of people. Making localized noise can alert bears to your presence.
  • Be aware that elk calls and cover scents can attract bears.
  • Bring the equipment and people needed to help field dress game and remove the meat from the kill site as soon as possible.
  • If you need to leave part of the meat in the field during processing, hang it at least 10 feet off the ground and at least 150 yards from the gut pile. Leave it where it can be observed from a distance of at least 200 yards.
  • Upon your return, observe the meat with binoculars. If it has been disturbed or if a bear is in the area, leave and call FWP.
  • Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Management authority for grizzlies rests with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, working closely in Montana with FWP, the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey, Wildlife Services, and Native American tribes.