The bear that attacked a researcher in May was a 24-year-old grizzly, according to a report issued last week from the Wildlife Human Attack Response Team of Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Prior to the investigation, it was not known if a grizzly or black bear had attacked the woman identified as Amber Kornak, who was working as a field assistant doing grizzly-bear research for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The attack occurred at about 11 a.m., Thursday, May 17, in the Poorman Creek Drainage of the Cabinet Mountains south of Libby.
Kornak sustained serious injuries after surprising the bear. During the attack, she managed to deploy bear spray, which deterred the animal and forced it to flee the area.
According to Response Team Lead Investigator Brian Sommers, the attack, described by investigators as a surprise defensive encounter, occurred when she walked within 11-12 feet of the bear. Neither the bear nor the victim could likely see or hear each other due to environmental factors and noise resulting from nearby high-water runoff, rain and wind.
The bear was in front of and to the left of the victim prior to the attack.
Following the attack, Kornak activated her Garmin inReach Global Satellite device that sent out an emergency notification. She walked approximately two miles from the scene to her vehicle and drove an additional three miles before encountering another vehicle, which transported her to an ambulance. Along U.S. 2, ALERT Air Ambulance arrived and transported her to Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
The bear was identified through DNA analysis of hair collected in the investigation. The bear was previously captured in 2005 as part of a research project. The bear has spent its entire life in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem and is one of the original grizzly bears in the ecosystem, according to Wayne Kasworm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Biologist and team leader for grizzly bear recovery in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem. The grizzly bear is not an augmentation bear.
Over the years, this bear has left numerous hair samples on scratch and rub sites throughout the ecosystem, which spans approximately 2,600 square miles across the Yaak Valley and the Cabinet and Purcell mountain ranges of Northwest Montana and Northern Idaho. The ecosystem is home to a relatively small population of grizzly bears estimated at 53.
The Response Team investigation included on-site visits, victim interviews, evidence collection and analysis.