Bear attacks sleeping camper during river rafting trip in Montana, officials say

National Park Service

A camper was sleeping along a Montana river when she was attacked by a black bear, wildlife officials said.

The woman was guiding an overnight rafting group on Wednesday, June 7, and had set up camp along the Middle Fork Flathead River near Nyack, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks said in a news release.

She was with one other guide and three clients.

As the woman was sleeping outside on the ground, what was believed to be a black bear “momentarily attacked her,” wildlife officials told McClatchy News.

Bear spray was deployed, but the animal returned to the camp several times, officials said.

The woman was taken to a hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Montana has approximately 15,000 black bears.

Nyack is in northwestern Montana.

What to do if you see a bear

Bear attacks in the U.S. are rare, according to the National Park Service. In most attacks, bears are trying to defend their food, cubs or space.

There are steps people can take to help prevent a bear encounter from becoming a bear attack.

  • Identify yourself: Talk calmly and slowly wave your arms. This can help the bear realize you’re a human and nonthreatening.

  • Stay calm: Bears usually don’t want to attack; they want to be left alone. Talk slowly and with a low voice to the bear.

  • Don’t scream: Screaming could trigger an attack.

  • Pick up small children: Don’t let kids run away from the bear. It could think they’re small prey.

  • Hike in groups: A group is noisier and smellier, the National Park Service said. Bears like to keep their distance from groups of people.

  • Make yourself look big: Move to higher ground and stand tall. Don’t make any sudden movements.

  • Don’t drop your bag: A bag on your back can keep a bear from accessing food, and it can provide protection.

  • Walk away slowly: Move sideways so you appear less threatening to the bear. This also lets you keep an eye out.

  • Again, don’t run: Bears will chase you, just like a dog would.

  • Don’t climb trees: Grizzlies and black bears can also climb.

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