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Making sense of a grizzly bear mauling | Montana Untamed podcast

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Roughly one year ago, Leah Davis Lokan was mauled to death in her tent by a 4-year-old male grizzly. The tragedy made international headlines and sparked conversations about how humans and bears can coexist.

Two hundred years ago, grizzly bears dominated the Montana landscape. But today, people have taken that throne and relegated the animal to a fraction of its former range. But the bears — backed by legal protection and decades of recovery effort — have begun reasserting themselves, in some cases wandering through areas they haven’t been spotted in for many years. The slow expansion has led to an increase in bear conflicts that run the gamut in severity — trash can rummages, chicken coop break-ins, attacks on large livestock and fatal maulings of humans. And as both human and bear populations continue to swell, experts say the number of conflicts will grow as well. 

On this episode, Missoulian Reporter Josh Murdock and Missoulian Editor Rob Chaney, discuss a recently-released report that focuses on the fatal mauling of Leah Lokan, and what the incident means for our relationship with grizzly bears in the West.

This podcast  is created in partnership across five newsrooms – the Billings Gazette, the Helena Independent Record, the Missoulian, the Montana Standard and the Ravalli-Republic. You can support this podcast and our efforts by subscribing. Visit any of these newspapers’ websites, and click on the Become a Member button at the top of the home page. We appreciate your support of local journalism.

A new report found that a California woman who was fatally mauled by a grizzly bear in Montana last summer was the victim of a rare predatory attack by bear that had learned to seek out human food. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s Board of Review concluded the bear was likely attracted to food and scents near her tent. Leah Davis Lokan of Chico was mauled in the pre-dawn hours of July 6, 2021, in Ovando. The investigation found Lokan moved some food out of her tent but two bags that previously held dried blueberries remained. The bear was shot two days later.

Two steel culvert traps, each big enough to hold a riding lawnmower, sit in the campground where the tents used to be. Signs on the trees warn “Closed: Bear management action in progress.”

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