Montana authorities are now calling for better bear control after a 400-pound grizzly killed 65-year-old camper Leah Davis Lokan on July 6. The tragic incident occurred near the town of Ovando, seventy-four miles northwest of Helena, Montana.
The bear in question dragged Lokan out of her tent before dawn and ultimately killed her. The victim’s sister and a friend camped in another tent nearby.
Three days later, the grizzly was later found and killed via gunshot by Montana wildlife officials. However, this is just the latest in several fatal and scary encounters with grizzlies and other bears in the West. States such as California, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, are all seeing upticks in bear-related fatalities and encounters.
According to Montana State Senator Butch Gillespie, the bear problem is getting out of hand, per reporting from KBZK. In 2021, Gillespie backed Montana S.B. 98, which seeks to control Montana’s bear population and offer support for ranchers and those attacked by bears.
Gillespie currently lives on a ranch with 100 cows— which are under constant threat of being killed and eaten by bears. Further, Grizzlies are moving into more populated areas of the state, according to Gillespie. In fact, Gillespie has even seen bears from his kitchen window. He believes the bear problem is a growing danger.
Per the state senator, 2021 has seen the most grizzly bear activity in recent history. Bears are nows migrating east out of the mountainous regions and into more rural areas and towns with more people in the area.
The Burgeoning Issue With Grizzly Bears
“They’re going to be to our eastern border with North and South Dakota before much longer,” Gillespie said. “We just need to do something to protect people and property, like our livestock.
“They’re all dangerous [bears] to a certain point but most of them will leave you alone. According to Gillespie, the state needs to deal with a “few bad bears.”
Trina Bradley, who lives on a Montana ranch, serves on the Montana grizzly bear advisory committee. She has also studied bears for years. According to Bradley, her teenage daughter doesn’t go outdoors alone because the bear risk is too high. Per Bradley, the bear population continues to increase as more bears with cubs are being spotted.
“Younger bears without territory are being pushed into the open by older bears up in the mountains,” Bradley says. “They will take the path of least resistance. The plains are where there’s more food that they [bears] don’t have to work for and can just sit and wait [for food].”
Both Bradley and Gillespie hope the state can adequately manage the bear problem but say that it will require efforts from state and federal government agencies, as well as bear management experts.