Fatal Grizzly Bear Attack - CycleBlaze

Bicycle Travel Forum

Fatal Grizzly Bear Attack

John Pickett

Ovando, Montana is located in western Montana on Highway 200. It is at the crossroads between two Adventure Cycling routes, the Great Divide and the Lewis and Clark. The town has a population of less than 100. It caters to touring cyclists offering places to camp as well as a restaurant and general store. I passed through Ovando in 2018 on my cross country tour. It's a charming place and I regretted not staying there overnight, at the time.

At 3 a.m. Tuesday, July 8, a grizzly bear entered the town. Long story short, the bear, a 400 pound juvenile, attacked and killed a bicycle tourist, Leah Davis Lokan of Chico, California, who was in her tent. 

Fellow campers pepper sprayed the bear but their brave intervention was too late to save Lokan. The bear left town after being sprayed.  Authorities are searching the area and have laid traps for the bear but it appears to have escaped.

The mountains of the American west are populated by all manner of wildlife, mountain lions, wolves, bears (brown, black, and grizzly), and elk to name a few. Fortunately, attacks of this sort are rare but forewarned is forearmed. If you are riding, and especially if you are camping, be prepared. Carry bear spray. Store your food far from your tent, preferably in an airtight container off the ground. 

Stay safe, everybody.

Reply    Link    Flag
2 weeks ago
Edward HitchcockTo John Pickett

Hello John

The reporting does suggest that the group were  not following rules about food.  I would have thought that, especially after a visit, that each person would have had bear spray close at hand.  Or have decamped for somewhere safer (they were in a town it seems).  Easy to be wise after the fact though.

I did a tour in 1979 Los Angeles to Boulder, crossing Monarch Pass on the way.  We camped about May  just after the pass, probably by US285, in an otherwise empty roadside layby.  We were worried about bears (being New Zealanders after all), and hung all our food well away from the tent.  We saw no signs of bears, but equally did not know what to look for.  We did not have bear spray, and were not aware of the importance of avoiding odours inside the tent.  And we had no problem.

That was the only night of the trip (as I remember) where we were worried about wildlife and whether we were suitably prepared.  I still do not understand what the real risks were at the time.

This is my favourite encounter-with-wildlife story about Dave Roe and the tiger.

https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=38g&page_id=573408&v=4E

Take care out there...

Ed

Reply    Link    Flag
2 weeks ago
Chris PountneyTo John Pickett

This is very tragic. We stayed in Ovando when we cycled the Great Divide in 2018 and it is probably the most welcoming little town for cyclists on the whole route. I cannot remember what we did with our food when we stayed there but I'm sure it would have been one of the nights when we would have least worried about bears, not only being in a town but also because as I remember it is surrounded by open fields and not especially close to any forest. It goes to show that you can never be too careful.

Reply    Link    Flag
2 weeks ago
Graham SmithTo John Pickett

That’s a tragic and shocking way to go, especially as they were camping in a town and were in their tent. Thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Leah Lokan. Heartbreaking time for them. 

Reply    Link    Flag
2 weeks ago
Paul MulveyTo John Pickett

I saw this article and BAM! it was slightly unsettling. I plan to ride the GDMBR within the next 3 years as I plan retirment and have the extended time to do it. Ovando is one of those places to stop along the trail, and it's a welcoming town (from what I've read). I can't imagine the horror the rider went through during the attack. Such a shame.

Reply    Link    Flag
1 week ago
Jacquie GaudetTo John Pickett

I just finally read the news stories about this incident and it was indeed tragic.

I find it odd, though, that people who presumably had experience camping in bear territory had their food in their tents before the first bear visit.  Perhaps they didn't think a bear would come into town but with a population of only 75 (according to news reports), that's not a reasonable belief.  After all, there was a bear sighted at my kids' elementary school when they were there (search for Marlborough Elementary School in Burnaby BC on your preferred mapping program, then zoom out).

I would hope that, since the town caters to touring cyclists, that it can find a way to install some food lockers and picnic tables away from the tenting area.

Reply    Link    Flag
5 days ago