Outdoors

Update on Bear Attack North of Columbia Falls

Woman recovering from bites on torso and head, claw wounds; bear not yet located

Officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are still investigating a bear attack on a woman who was running with her dogs on U.S. Forest Service property in the Cedar Flats area north of Columbia Falls, but released additional details Monday.

The attack occurred late the morning on July 3.

According to FWP investigator Brian Sommers, the bear ran out from the trees and attacked one of the dogs. The runner yelled at the bear, then lay on her side on the ground. The bear charged and grabbed the runner just above the hip area, biting her several times. The bear then turned back to the dogs. The runner sat up and the bear returned and bit her on the head several times. The bear then released its grip and ran back into the woods. The dogs ran off.

The victim was not armed with bear pepper spray, Sommers said. Later, the victim’s husband came back and retrieved the dogs, which were injured but alive.

Sommers’ account is based on initial interviews and site visits, and he continue piecing together the final details of the incident over the coming weeks.

“Running with dogs can be a potential hazard,” FWP Bear and Lion Specialist Erik Wenum said. “A dog running off-leash can encounter a bear or other animal, and potentially bring the bear back to the owner.”

Wenum added that all hikers or runners should carry bear pepper spray as a safety precaution.

The victim told investigators she thought it was a black bear, but they are not certain. They also don’t know the sex of the bear or whether cubs were present.

Investigators have been unable to locate the offending bear, and a trap set last week has been removed; no activity was noted at the trap site.

The Forest Service will reopen the Cedar Flats trail area this afternoon.

According to Sommers, the victim is recovering from several bites in the torso and head area, and claw wounds, after being released from the North Valley Hospital on the day of the attack. This type of surprise encounter is unfortunate and FWP wishes the victim a complete recovery.

“All of Northwest Montana is bear country,” Wenum said. “Besides carrying pepper spray, hikers should be aware of their surroundings at all times.”