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Grizzly bear is fatally shot after killing California woman

HELENA Mont. — A grizzly bear that pulled a California woman from her tent and killed her this week was fatally shot early Friday by wildlife officials using night-vision goggles to stake out a chicken coop that the animal raided near the small Montana town where the woman was attacked.

Federal wildlife workers shot the bear shortly after midnight when it approached a trap set near the coop about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from Ovando, where 65-year-old Leah Davis Lokan of Chico, California, was killed Tuesday, said Greg Lemon with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Lemon said that the bear had raided the chicken coop overnight Wednesday, and officials set a baited trap nearby, hoping to lure the animal back. Local authorities said campsites in town would stay closed until DNA evidence from the animal comes back. “Based on the size of the bear, the color of the bear, and the nature of the chicken coop raids, we’re confident we’ve got the offending bear,” he said.

Lemon said tracks found at the coop also matched those near the fatal attack in Ovando.

The town along the banks of the Blackfoot River — made famous by the movie “A River Runs Through It” — has fewer than 100 people and borders a massive expanse of forested lands that stretches to the Canadian border. The region is home to an estimated 1,000 grizzlies.

Bear attacks on people are relatively rare, particularly in inhabited areas, and Ovando businesses cater to adventuresome tourists, including bicyclists like Lokan. They are allowed to pitch their tents in town.

Dona Aitken, an artist who lives about 7 miles (11 kilometers) east of the town, said the bear’s death would relieve the community. Aitken occasionally sees grizzlies and their signs, such as droppings and tracks but hasn’t bothered them. “Everybody recognizes this as really abnormal behavior to actually attack somebody sleeping in a tent in town,” she said. “I think we still don’t have a good answer for why he did that.”

Investigators gathered DNA evidence from the attack and will compare it to samples collected from the dead grizzly, which was taken to a state wildlife laboratory in Bozeman for a necropsy, Lemon said. The results could be available in the next three days. Until then, Powell County Sheriff Gavin Roselles said he would close outdoor campsites in Ovando. Lokan, a registered nurse who had worked at a hospital in Chico, was an experienced enthusiast and cyclist outdoors on a mountain biking trip. She and two companions were camping behind the Ovando post office when she was attacked.

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