A 24-year-old male grizzly bear native — not introduced — to the Cabinet-Yaak area was identified as the bruin that attacked a researcher in the Cabinet Mountains south of Libby in May.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced the results of its investigation into the attack on Thursday. The bear was identified by an analysis of DNA in hair samples collected at the scene.
Amber Kornak, 28, a field assistant with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was collecting grizzly hair samples in Poorman Creek Drainage for a genetic study when the attack occurred about 11 a.m. May 17.
Thursday’s news release includes previously undisclosed details of the attack, described “as a surprise defensive encounter (that) occurred after (Kornak) 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 and rain and wind,” the news release states, quoting Brian Sommers, lead investigator of the agency’s Wildlife Human Attack Response Team.
“The bear was in front of and to the left of the woman prior to the attack,” the news release continues. Kornak was able to deploy bear spray, “which deterred the animal and forced it to flee the area.”
After she was attacked, Kornak activated a device that sent out an emergency signal, the news release states. She then walked about two miles to her vehicle and drove another three miles “before encountering another vehicle, which transported her to an ambulance.”
The ambulance took her to Highway 2, where a helicopter picked her up and flew her to Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
The bear “was captured in 2005 as part of a research project,” “has spent its entire life in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, and is one of the original grizzly bears in the ecosystem,” the news release states, attributing the findings to Wayne Kasworm, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly bear biologist and team leader for grizzly bear recovery in that area, “which spans approximately 2,600 square miles across the Yaak Valley and the Cabinet and Purcell mountain ranges of northwest Montana and northern Idaho.”
Researchers estimate 53 grizzly bears live in that area, which they call in the news release “a relatively small population.”
“The grizzly bear is not an augmentation bear,” meaning it wasn’t introduced from elsewhere, the news release states.
The news release did not report on Kornak’s condition. It was previously reported that Jenna Hemer, a friend of Kornak who started an online fundraising campaign on Kornak’s behalf and who spoke with the Associated Press, stated that Kornak suffered “two skull fractures as well as severe lacerations to her head, neck and back.”
Kornak has not responded to interview requests.
By Thursday afternoon, the GoFundMe campaign had raised $43,861 of its $50,000 goal.