A Forest Service law enforcement ranger from West Glacier, Montana, was killed by a bear while mountain biking just south of Glacier National Park on Wednesday, June 28, when he and another rider likely surprised the bear. Brad Treat, 38, was riding the Green Gate/Halfmoon trail system in the Flathead National Forest when the incident occurred.
According to law enforcement, the two riders encountered the bear around 2 p.m., and Treat was taken off his bike by the animal. The second rider was not attacked and was able to escape and go for help. Treat was pronounced dead at the scene. The bear was originally identified as a grizzly, though Montana wildlife managers are analyzing DNA samples to confirm.
Local authorities, including the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Wildlife Human Attack Response Team, and the U.S. Forest Service are investigating the attack. The Green Gate/Halfmoon trail system was closed while authorities investigate the incident and search for the bear. Trail system updates can be obtained by calling the Flathead National Forest at 406-758-5200.
If the bear is confirmed as a grizzly, it would be the first grizzly fatality in the region in 15 years. In 2001, an elk hunter was killed near Ovando, Montana. Grizzlies have been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act since 1975. Populations are rebounding, but along with that human-bear interactions are increasing as well. Approximately 1,000 grizzlies live in Northwestern Montana. In the Yellowstone region, which has a similarly sized grizzly population, there have been six fatalities since 2010
According to the Flathead Beacon, Treat grew up in the Flathead Valley and was an all-state distance runner at Kalispel, Montana’s Flathead High School. He helped Flathead High win state track titles in 1995 and 1996, and a cross-country championship in 1994. He also won individual state championships in the 1,600 meter and 3,200 meter in 1996.
Treat is described as an avid outdoor enthusiast who was active in search and rescue operations. Rob Davies, the district ranger the Hungry Horse/Glacier View district of the U.S. Forest Service, where Treat worked, called Treat an exemplary officer, according to the Flathead Beacon.
“He’s super well-rounded and had an incredibly positive attitude,” Davies says in the Beacon. “His ability to deal with extremely stressful situations in a very professional and relaxed way was amazing.”
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Officer Brad Treat, who was fatally attacked by a grizzly bear yesterday while biking on the Flathead National Forest in Montana with a family member,” Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said in a statement released Thursday. “My thoughts are with Officer Treat’s family and loved ones as they grapple with this tragic news and a devastating loss. We are grateful for Officer Treat’s selfless service and share in mourning a life that was taken too soon. The brave men and women of the U.S. Forest Service risk their lives every day in difficult and challenging circumstances, and today we are reminded of their incredible service to our nation.”
Photo by Gregory Slobirdr Smith