News & Features

Victim of Kalispell Bear Attack Dies

Barbara Paschke, 85, died as the result of injuries she suffered during a black bear attack inside her home

An 85-year-old Kalispell woman died Oct. 1 from injuries she suffered during a black bear attack inside her Ashley Lake home last Sunday afternoon.

The woman, Barbara Paschke, died at 10:30 a.m. while she was hospitalized at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. She died due to injuries from the attack, according to a press release from Flathead County Undersheriff Dave Leib.

The circumstances of the attack are still under investigation by officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, but investigators say the woman and others had been actively feeding bears on and near the property, conditioning the animals to humans and creating a dangerous situation.

The attack occurred inside Paschke’s home between Batavia Lane and Ashley Lake Road; although it’s not clear how the bear got inside Paschke’s home, it exited through a window, investigators said.

The attack was severe, officials said, but a hospital spokesperson said on Tuesday that the woman was recovering.

Wildlife officials are still attempting to capture the bear responsible for the attack, and on Thursday expressed frustration after uncovering evidence that people were still feeding bears near the property.

In the past two days, investigators have captured and euthanized two black bears they determined were not involved in last Sunday’s fatal attack, but which were clearly being actively fed on or near the property and had become conditioned to humans.

FWP investigators set traps in the area to capture the bear involved in the attack, as well as to address the broader hazard of food-conditioned bears roaming in the residential area. The two food-conditioned black bears that were captured and killed had large amounts of millet and sunflower seeds in their digestive tracts, according to necropsy results.

According to FWP Bear and Lion Specialist Erik Wenum, not only was the victim of the bear attack actively feeding bears on her property, but someone has continued feeding bears in the area since the incident, compounding the hazardous situation.

“Someone is hampering our investigation by continuing to extensively feed bears, making our efforts to attract and trap the offending bear that much more difficult,” Wenum said.

He said the agency is already extremely busy responding to reports of bears in the Flathead Valley, and he is currently responding to an average of 35 calls per day from members of the public reporting bear behavior, with the call volume sometimes rising as high as 45.

Wenum said residents should take care to secure attractants like garbage and pet food, particularly as bears converge at lower elevations in search of food.

Anyone with information about bears being fed in the Batavia Lane/Ashley Lake Road area to contact Game Warden Wes Oedekoven at 406-270-4220 or 1-800-TIPMONT.