Woman killed by grizzly bear that pulled her from her tent in Montana

Woman, 65, is killed by a grizzly bear that dragged her from her tent while she was sleeping during a long-distance cycling trip in Montana

  • Leah Davis Lokan, 65, was killed by a bear in Ovando, Montana, on Tuesday 
  • The Chico, California, native had stopped in the town to camp while on a long-distance bicycling trip  
  • The approximately 400-pound grizzly first awakened the campers about 3am  
  • It then returned at about 4.15am and pulled Lokan from her tent while she slept
  • Fellow campers who heard the attack chased the animal away with bear spray 
  • First responders were unsuccessful in their attempts to resuscitate her
  • Officials searched by helicopter for the grizzly Wednesday but couldn’t find it
  • Grizzly bears have run into conflict in the Northern Rockies as they expanded into new areas and the number of people living in the region grew 

A woman was killed by a grizzly bear that pulled her out of a tent at a campsite in Montana in the middle of the night. 

Leah Davis Lokan, 65, of Chico, California, was on a long-distance bicycling trip and had stopped in the town of Ovando when she was killed early Tuesday, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) said.  

Lokan was attacked on the bear’s second visit to the site where she and two fellow bicyclists were camping near the post office, officials said.

The approximately 400-pound grizzly first arrived at about 3am and awakened the campers who then took food out of their tents, secured it and went back to sleep. 

Surveillance video from a business in town showed the bear about a block from the post office about 15 minutes later. 

About 4.15am, the sheriff’s office received a 911 call after two people in a tent near Lokan’s were awakened by sounds of the attack, Powell County Sheriff Gavin Roselles said. 

The fellow campers discharged bear spray at the animal to force it to flee – but not before it left Lokan with fatal injuries.  

Leah Lokan, 65, (pictured) was killed during a bear attack while camping in Ovando, Montana, the Powell County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Wednesday afternoon

Lokan, a registered nurse who had worked at a hospital in Chico, had looked forward to the Montana bike trip for months, her friend

Officials said the grizzly bear that killed Lokan weighed about 400 pounds (file photo)

First responders and a helicopter ambulance arrived at the scene and attempted to save Lokan’s life, but were unsuccessful. 

The bear is also believed to have entered a chicken coop in town that night, killing and eating several chickens.

Officials searched by helicopter for the grizzly again Wednesday but couldn’t find it.

‘At this point, our best chance for catching this bear will be culvert traps set in the area near the chicken coop where the bear killed and ate several chickens,’ said Randy Arnold, the MFWP regional supervisor in Missoula.

According to the Great Falls Tribune, a specialized search and rescue team from ‘Two Bear Air’ is assisting with the search, utilizing ‘flare technology’. 

The bear will be killed if it is found, according to MFWP spokesman Greg Lemon. 

Investigators have obtained DNA from the bear at the scene of the attack and will be able to compare it with any bruin they are able to trap, the agency said.

Ovando saloon owner Tiffanie Zavarelli said it was the first fatal bear attack she knew of in the community.

‘Everybody’s pretty shaken up right now,’ Zavarelli said, according to CBS News. ‘The people from Montana, we know how to be “bear aware.” But anything can happen.’ 

A helicopter from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks flies around the Ovando area on Tuesday in search of a bear that killed Lokan

The Powell County Sheriff’s Office announced on Facebook that they’re looking for the bear

Lokan, a registered nurse who had worked at a hospital in Chico, had looked forward to the Montana bike trip for months, her friend Mary Flowers said.  

Lokan had taken previous long-distance bike trips and on this one was accompanied by her sister and a friend, Flowers said.

‘She loved these kind of adventures. A woman in her 60s, and she’s dong this kind of stuff — she had a passion for life that was out of the ordinary,’ Flowers said.

She rode for the Chico Cycling Team, Women on Wheels and spent time volunteering with Chico Velo, according to the Chico Enterprise-Record. 

‘It’s unbelievable,’ Chico Cycling Club president Mike Castaldo said. ‘You always hear about stuff like that but it’s never that close to home.’

Castaldo described Lokan as a ‘free spirit’ who ‘always had a smile on her face.’

‘She was a good woman. She’s going to be missed,’ Castaldo added.

‘She was doing what she loved which was being in the mountains, riding her bike, hiking and camping,’ stated Pamela Plemmons, a leader of Women on Wheels.

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.

The bear will be killed if it is found, said a spokesperson for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Two months ago, a woman eaten by bears as she walked her dog, as a coroner said she died from ‘perforating’ neck wounds.

Laney Malavolta, 39, was identified four days after being killed while walking her two dogs near Durango, Colorado, on April 30.

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

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 US.

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

In 2001, a hunter was killed by a grizzly with two cubs while he was gutting an elk at a wildlife management area west of Ovando. The three animals were shot and killed by wildlife officials days later.

Over the past 20 years, there have been 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 Lokan’s death is considered a public safety threat because of the circumstances of the attack, Lemon said.

One rider working on a seven-week trip appears unconcerned about any future incidents.

‘We carry bear spray and keep our food in a bear-proof bag,’ Jim Drake said. ‘Bears are always a threat, but as long as we take precautions, we’re not too worried. I think we’re more likely to be hit by a car than attacked by a bear.’ 

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