Bikepacker Killed in Bear Encounter In Western Montana

A 65-year-old California woman on a bikepacking trip was killed by a 400-pound male grizzly on Tuesday, near the town of Ovando, Montana, about an hour east of Missoula, on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

The woman and her fellow bikepackers, including her sister, were camped near the town’s post office when they were awakened by the sound of the bear at about 3:15 am. The campers got up, made sure their food was secured, then went back to their tents. A short time later the bear returned and entered the victim’s tent, pulling her out. Her friends discharged bear spray at the bear, chasing it away, but the fatal damage had been done.

Authorities say the same bear entered a chicken coop in town earlier that night, eating a couple of the chickens before arriving at the bikepacking camp.

The bear hasn’t been found yet, though Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks have conducted extensive searching. Once they find the bear, it will be destroyed, because the bear purposely entered a person’s tent. Bears that maul hikers in surprise encounters are not typically tracked down and killed.

This was only the third fatal bear encounter in that area of Montana in 20 years. Some 1,000 grizzlies are believed to live in that portion of the state. It is the second bear-related fatality in the state this year.

“She loved these kind of adventures,” said a friend of the killed camper. “A woman in her 60s, and she’s doing this kind of stuff — she had a passion for life that was out of the ordinary.”

Photo: Sebastian Scheuer

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