Grizzly Bear That Killed Woman in Montana Will Be Killed If Found: Wildlife Spokesman

A grizzly bear that fatally attacked a woman who was camping in a western Montana town on Tuesday will be killed if found, a wildlife spokesman said.

Powell County Sheriff Gavin Roselles said the bear wandered into the victim's campsite a couple of times before the mauling occurred. Someone at the scene called 911 while another used bear spray, the Associated Press reported.

Officials said other circumstances surrounding the attack are under investigation but that the priority is to find and kill the bear to prevent more dangerous encounters.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Grizzly Bear to be Hunted and Killed
A grizzly bear that fatally attacked a woman who was camping in a western Montana town on Tuesday will be killed if found. Above, a mother grizzly bear and her three cubs are seen in a meadow at Yellowstone National Park on May 27, 2021, in Wyoming. AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

A helicopter was flying over the area around the small town of Ovando in pursuit of the bear, which will be killed if found, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Greg Lemon said. Large traps made out of culverts were set around the area in hopes of capturing the bruin.

Ovando, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Helena, is a community of fewer than 100 people at the edge of the sprawling Bob Marshall wilderness.

Roselles closed camping in Ovando as the search for the bear continued, following creeks leading away from the town.

The victim's identity was expected to be released Wednesday, Powell County Coroner Heather Gregory said. The victim was a woman, Roselles said.

A video camera from an Ovando business caught footage of a grizzly bear Monday night, wildlife officials said. A bear also raided a chicken coop prior to the attack at the campsite.

Grizzly bears have run into increasing conflict with humans in the Northern Rockies over the past decade as the federally protected animals expanded into new areas and the number of people living and recreating in the region grew. That has spurred calls from elected officials in Montana and neighboring Wyoming and Idaho to lift protections so the animals could be hunted.

North of Ovando lies an expanse of forests and mountains including Glacier National Park that stretches to Canada and is home to an estimated 1,000 grizzlies. It's the largest concentration of the bruins in the contiguous U.S.

Fatal attacks are rare in the region. There have been three in the last 20 years, including Tuesday's, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Over that same period, there were eight fatal maulings of people by grizzlies from a separate population of about 700 bears in and around Yellowstone National Park. In April, a backcountry guide was killed by a grizzly bear while fishing along the park's border in southwestern Montana.

Bears that attack people are not always killed if the mauling resulted from a surprise encounter or the bear was defending its young. But the bear involved in Tuesday's death is considered a public safety threat due to the circumstances of the attack, Lemon said.

Fatal Grizzly Attack
A grizzly bear that fatally attacked a woman who was camping in a western Montana town on Tuesday will be killed if found. Above, Jacobsen Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the Blackfoot River near Ovando, Montana, on April 26, 2006. Authorities said the bear killed a woman who was camping in the Ovando area on July 6, 2021. Jennifer Michaelis/The Missoulian/Associated Press