Leah Lokan, 65, was ripped from her tent and killed by a grizzly bear while camping in Ovando, Montana, on Tuesday, July 6.
Lokan, a resident of Chico, California, was camping near the post office on Main Street in the midst of a cross-country bike tour. Ovando, a town of less than 100 people, provides a popular resting point for bicycle tourists traveling across the Continental Divide nearby.
According to a news release from Montana FWP, a couple from Lokan’s party were camping nearby and woke up to the sounds of a bear rummaging around at 3 a.m. before it quickly ran away. The couple removed food from their tent, placed it in a secured food storage area, and returned to sleep.
By 3:30 a.m. the couple woke up again—this time to the sounds of the attack. They rushed over to Lokan's tent and deployed their bear spray toward the grizzly, but it was too late. They called 911 but Lokan had died from her injuries before emergency responders arrived.
The bear hasn’t been seen since the incident. FWP and law enforcement officials attempted to locate it using a helicopter with infrared technology from Two Bear Air Rescue out of Kalispell. Wildlife officials set culvert traps in the area which now offer the best chance at catching the bear. If trapped, bioligists will use DNA samples taken from the scene to confirm it is the same animal. FWP will kill the bear when they find it.
Lokan was camped near the post office when the fatal attack occured.
Based on behavior and tracks, FWP bear experts believe the bear in question is a 400-pound male grizzly. The bear also attacked a chicken coop Tuesday night, killing and eating several chickens on his midnight prowl across Ovando.
FWP spokesman Greg Lemon told the Helena Independent Record that bears have come into town before. “A few years ago we had two subadult bears that got into trash cans and caused problems,” Lemon said. “We’ve worked in the past on bear conflicts and to secure attractants. It’s not out of the ordinary to have a bear in the Ovando area get into attractants.”
It’s worth mentioning that keeping food in your tent is not a good habit to follow. For more details on proper food storage and recreating in bear country, check out the FWP website.
Bears are part of life in the Mountain West, but it’s impossible not to be shaken by such a traumatic event. “Our first concern is the community's well-being. The next step is to find the bear," Lemon said.
Lokan was a member of the Chico Cycling Team, Women on Wheels, as well as a volunteer for Chico Velo. Her longtime friend and the president of the Chico Cycling Team, Mike Castaldo, told the Chico Enterprise-Record that Lokan “was a true outdoorswoman.”
“She was a free spirit first and foremost,” Castaldo said. "She always had a smile on her face. She always gave great hugs when you saw her. She was a good woman. She’s going to be missed.”
MeatEater sends our condolences to her family and friends.
Feature image via the National Park Service
Story updated on July 9: Montana wildlife officials shot and killed a grizzly bear on Friday morning that they believe was the same bear that killed Leah Lokan and attacked a chicken coop in Ovando. The bear's proximity to Ovando and its approach of a second, monitored chicken coop on Thursday gave officials confidence that the bears are one and the same. DNA analysis will be able to confirm or deny the identity match.