An 85-year-old Montana woman has died of wounds she suffered in a rare attack by a black bear inside her rural home where she had been feeding bruins in violation of state law, authorities said on Friday.
Barbara Paschke died on Thursday at a hospital in the city of Kalispell from injuries suffered to her muscles, tendons and other soft tissues in the attack on Sunday afternoon, said Flathead County Undersheriff Dave Leib.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks managers are seeking to capture the bear involved.
Earlier this week, wardens trapped two other bears, a male and a female, on the woman’s property, which is near a lake west of Kalispell, in the northwestern part of the state.
The pair were euthanized after it was determined they had been routinely fed sunflower seeds and millet by the elderly homeowner, and perhaps others in the residential area.
A different bear is blamed for the fatal attack, and agency spokesman John Fraley said it was not yet known whether the pair were related to that one, nor how that bear got inside Paschke’s house.
Wardens have gone door-to-door warning residents that bears accustomed to being fed by humans were roaming the neighborhood, and reminding them Montana law forbids feeding of bears.
The ban is designed to prevent bears from losing their fear of humans or seeing them as sources of food, making them a threat to public safety, said regional Fish, Wildlife and Parks manager Neil Anderson.
Anderson said such animals must be destroyed.
“It would be irresponsible to release potentially dangerous bears somewhere else when the bears are habituated to people. This is a very unfortunate example of how feeding bears directly leads to their death,” he said in a statement.
Black bears are not generally known for attacking humans. Most encounters with black or grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies that cause harm to humans involve an element of surprise, or are tied to female bears protecting their young, according to experts.
The fatal attack comes as black bears and their massive, hump-shouldered counterparts are seeking food to build up fat reserves needed for winter hibernation.