When three campers were woken up by a grizzly bear, they took the proper safety precautions.
They removed food from the area, secured their tents and went back to sleep, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said. They were camping near Ovando, Montana, a small rural town northwest of Helena.
Hours later, a couple in the group was startled awake by the sounds of a grizzly attack. The 400-pound bear had yanked a woman from her tent, wildlife officials said. She died Tuesday during the attack.
The couple sprayed the bear with bear spray, and it hasn’t been seen since, wildlife officials said Wednesday.
For two days, officials have searched for the grizzly bear by helicopter and on the ground, but they still haven’t found it.
“Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bear specialists and wardens are continuing to monitor culvert traps set in the area,” wildlife officials said in a Wednesday news release. “The search even included the use of infrared technology from Two Bear Air Rescue out of Kalispell, but efforts to find the bear are now focusing on traps.”
The grizzly also ate several chickens in a coop in town, according to Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
“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,” Randy Arnold, FWP regional supervisor in Missoula, said in the news release.
Bears have been increasingly wandering into new areas in Montana as the population grows, state wildlife officials said. The state is bear country and is home to the largest grizzly population in the continental U.S.
The majority of bear encounters don’t involve any conflict, and bears are typically seeking a food source or protecting their young.
People recreating outdoors in bear territory should always carry bear spray and know how to use it, secure food, and keep a safe distance from any wildlife.