Ovando grizzly attack: Wildlife officials announce next steps in investigation

A report by federal and state agencies about the incident will be released

By: - August 3, 2021 4:59 pm

A grizzly bear. (Photo by Jean Beaufort.)

Wildlife officials announced on Tuesday that federal and state agencies will release a report sometime in late summer or early fall on the fatal July 6 grizzly bear attack in Ovando as they wrap up their investigation into the incident.

In a press release announcing the next steps of the investigation, officials said the bear had “no history of conflicts but was likely drawn to town in search of food.”

In the early morning hours of July 6, the bear wandered into Ovando, raided a chicken coop, dragged 64-year-old Leah Davis Lokan from her tent, and fatally mauled her. Davis was on a 400-mile bike camping trip from Eureka to Helena along the Great Divide bicycle route.

Ovando is a popular stop for bikers riding along the Great Divide and Lewis and Clark bicycle trails and has a long history of grizzly activity.

“Grizzly bears are common in the Blackfoot Valley, but events that result in human injury or death are extremely rare. The only other fatal attack by a grizzly bear in the Blackfoot Valley in the past 50 years was an elk hunter in 2001,” the release said.

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Two days after the attack, the bear returned to Ovando to raid a second chicken coop and was shot and killed by wildlife officials. A July 14 DNA test confirmed the bear killed was the same bear responsible for Lokan’s death.

“The local Blackfoot community came together from the first moments of this incident to do all it could to help,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Hank Worsech in the release. “This is a tight-knit group of people with a long history of working together to do what they can to address the challenges of having bears in the watershed. Coming together to help and process the events of this incident has been no exception.”

Grizzlies were added to the endangered species list in 1975 when only 700 bears roamed the lower 48 states. Since receiving federal protections, the animal has made a substantial comeback with nearly 2,000 bears in the lower 48 states.

“Grizzly bear distribution in the area has continued to expand through the years,” said Hilary Cooley, USFWS Montana-based grizzly bear recovery coordinator, in the release. “And as bears expand their range and the population grows in some places, there are a lot of people in the Blackfoot that consistently come together to figure out how to resolve issues and find creative solutions for working and living with bears. These efforts have been remarkable.”

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Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. Keith is no longer a reporter with the Daily Montanan.