KALISPELL — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks personnel are continuing to investigate a bear attack on a woman who was running with her dogs on Forest Service property in the Cedar Flats area north of Columbia Falls on Thursday, July 3rd.
According to a press release from FWP, the bear ran from the trees and attacked one of the dogs. The woman yelled at the bear, then lay on her side on the ground. The bear then charged and grabbed her just above the hip, biting her several times. The bear then turned back to the dogs. The woman 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.
This account is based on initial interviews and site visits; FWP investigator Brian Somers will be piecing together the final details of the incident over the coming weeks.
“Running with dogs can be a potential hazard,” says FWP bear and lion specialist Erik Wenum. “A dog running off-leash can encounter a bear or other animal, and potentially bring the bear back to the owner.” Wenum adds that all hikers or runners should carry bear pepper spray as a safety precaution.
Investigators believe it was a black bear, but have not yet been able to confirm that; the victim told investigators that she thought it was a black bear.
Investigators have not yet been able to find the bear. The trap set for the bear last week has been removed; no activity was noted at the trap site.
The U.S. Forest Service plans to re-open the Cedar Flats trail area on Monday afternoon.
According to Somers, the woman is recovering from claw wounds and several bites to the torso and head; she was released from the North Valley Hospital on the day of the attack.
“All of northwest Montana is bear country,” says Wenum. “Besides carrying pepper spray, hikers should be aware of their surroundings at all times.”