Grizzly bear that attacked biologist last year is relocated

LIBBY, Mont. (AP) — A grizzly bear that attacked a wildlife biologist last year was recently trapped and relocated in Montana.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional spokesman Dillon Tabish told The Western News the bear was eligible to be relocated because this was the first time it had gone after food in a populated area.

"This is kind of an unprecedented situation," Tabish said.

The 460-pound (209-kilogram) male grizzly was captured in a culvert trap south of Libby on Oct. 11, fitted with a radio collar and released in the Cabinet Mountains.

The bear's May 2018 encounter with grizzly researcher Amber Kornak didn't count as a strike against the bear because it acted naturally in defending itself, Tabish said.

Kornak was alone and collecting bear hair samples in the Cabinet Mountains for a genetic study when she was attacked. She said she was blowing a whistle and clapping her hands to alert any bears of her presence.

Still, she managed to get within 12 feet (4 meters) of a grizzly without either knowing the other was there because of the sound of water running in a nearby creek along with rain and wind, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation determined.

"We spooked each other," Kornak told The Associated Press in June 2018. "I got down on the ground and pulled out my bear spray. He bit down on my skull and I just reached over with my left arm and sprayed him and he was gone."

Kornak sent out an emergency notification using a satellite device, washed the bear spray out of her eyes with water and walked 2 miles (3 kilometers) to her truck with a fractured skull. She spent about a week in the hospital.

She agreed that no action should have been taken against the bear at that time.

"He was just doing what bears do," she said.

Kornak did not immediately return a call for comment on Tuesday.

Montana wildlife officials have never before captured a grizzly trying to access food in a populated area after previously being involved in a surprise defensive attack on a person, Tabish told the AP.

They are now reviewing their policies and will consult with federal wildlife officials on whether the bear should be killed if a similar situation arises, he said.

"Typically, after these encounters occur these bears just disappear," he said. "We're looking at that process because we're not sure moving forward the situation would be handled in the same way."

This bear will be monitored for future conflicts, and won't be given a third chance, he added.

"If that bear does come near humans or homes again, and we are able to identify that, it will be put down," Tabish said.

The Cabinet Mountains have about 50 grizzlies that are protected as a threatened species. DNA tests showed the bear that attacked Kornak was a 24-year-old male that was previously captured in 2005 as part of a research project.

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Information from: The Western News, http://www.thewesternnews.com