US authorities are searching for a grizzly bear that killed a woman in the wild US state of Montana after dragging her from her tent in the middle of the night.
Leah Lokan, a 65-year-old nurse from California, had stopped outside the tiny town of Ovando during a cycling trip through the wilderness.
During the attack on Tuesday, her two companions used bear spray to force the huge and aggressive animal out of their campsite.
Wildlife and law enforcement officials are sweeping the area and say they plan to kill the bear if they find it. A private service, Two Bear Air Rescue, is using infrared technology to locate the animal, according to Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) agency.
Traps have also been laid in the area near a chicken coop where the bear killed and ate several chickens the same night.
Investigators believe the animal weighs anywhere up to 200kg. Its DNA has been recovered at the scene of the attack, and will be compared with that of any bear that authorities successfully trap.
A friend of the woman told AP news agency that Lokan had taken long-distance bike trips in the past. On this latest journey she had been accompanied by her sister and a friend.
The FWP said the bear first approached the campers in the middle of the night as they slept in their tents.
Lokan and her two companions, who were sleeping in a separate tent, then removed all food from their tents and secured it safely before going back to sleep. But the bear returned shortly afterwards, leading to the fatal attack.
Ovando, a community of fewer than 100 people, sits on the edge of Glacier National Park – an expanse of forests and mountains stretching over the border into Canada.
The park is home to the largest concentration of bears within the contiguous US, but fatal attacks are rare in the region. Over the last 20 years there have been two other incidents, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bears that attack people are not always killed if their attack results from a surprise encounter, or if the bear was defending its young.
But a Montana FWP spokesman told AP that the bear involved in Lokan’s death is considered a threat because of the nature of the attack.
The grizzly bear, or Ursus Horribilis as it is called in Latin, is the largest and most dangerous predator in the Americas.