A NURSE was mauled to death by a grizzly bear that pulled her out of her tent in the dead of night as fellow campers watched on in horror.
Leah Davis Lokan, 65, of Chico, California, was on a long-distance bicycling trip and had stopped in the town of Ovando, Montana when she was killed early Tuesday morning.
The predator responsible for the attack remains at large, with wildlife officials and police desperately searching for the bear, which they plan to kill.
The grizzly had previously visited the camp before, officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said.
Lokan had been camping near the town's post office with two fellow cyclists when the attack happened.
The approximately 400-pound grizzly first awakened the campers about 3am, officials said, but then ran away.
The campers then took food out of their tents, secured it, and went back to sleep.
But the bear was only deterred briefly.
Surveillance video from a business in town showed the bear about a block from the post office about 15 minutes later, wildlife officials said.
Then, at around 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.
They sprayed bear repellent at the bruin, and the bear ran away.
Emergency responders from Ovando and nearby Helmille raced to the scene but were unable to revive Lokan.
Officials have not provided specifics about her injuries.
The bear is also believed to have entered a chicken coop in town that night, killing and eating several chickens.
Officials have spent the last two days searching for the bear by helicopter and on the ground but have been unable to 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, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional supervisor in Missoula.
The bear will be killed if it is found, said Greg Lemon, a spokesperson for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
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.
Lokan, a registered nurse who had worked at a hospital in Chico, had looked forward to the Montana bike trip for months, said Mary Flowers, a friend of the victim’s from Chico.
“She loved these kinds of adventures. 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,” Flowers told the AP.
Lokan was an avid cyclist and rode for both the Chico Cycling Team and Women on Wheels while also spending some time volunteering for a bike safety non-profit, her hometown media outlet reported.
She was also a biking champion, having won the "Women's Enduro 60+" at the 2015 Mammoth USA Cycling National Championships.
“It’s unbelievable,” Mike Castaldo, president of the Chico Cycling Club, told the Enterprise-Record. “You always hear about stuff like that but it’s never that close to home.”
“She was a free spirit first and foremost. She always had a smile on her face. She always gave great hugs when you saw her,” Castaldo said. “She was a good woman. She’s going to be missed.”
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.
That has spurred calls from elected officials in Montana and neighboring Wyoming and Idaho to lift protections so the animals could be hunted.
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 – the largest in the 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.
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.
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