Grizzly that mauled wildlife tech was one of Cabinet’s oldest; acted defensively

Amber Kornak was working as a grizzly bear wildlife technician when she was mauled. (GoFundMe)

KALISPELL – One of the oldest grizzly bears in the Cabinet Mountains of northwest Montana was identified as the bear that attacked a woman near Libby last month.

Amber Kornak, a field assistant for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was working on a grizzly bear research project May 17 in the Poorman Creek area south of Libby when she encountered the grizzly bear about 12 feet away.

Kornak was able to deploy her bear spray, but sustained serious injuries before fleeing the area, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Dillon Tabish.

DNA analysis of hair collected in the investigation identified the bear as a 24-year-old male grizzly bear that had been captured in 2005 as part of a government research project, Tabish said in a statement Thursday.

The bear has spent its entire life in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem of northwest Montana and is one of the original grizzly bears in the present-day population, according to Wayne Kasworm, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist working on grizzly bear recovery in the Cabinet-Yaak.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks investigators said the attack was a surprise defensive encounter that happened when the woman walked within 12 feet of the bear. Because of high water in a nearby stream, along with wind and rain, conditions were noisy and it’s likely neither the bear nor the victim could see or hear each other, investigator Brian Sommers said.

Following the attack, which occurred around 11 a.m., Kornak activated her GPS location device that sent out an emergency notification, then she walked approximately two miles to her vehicle. She drove another three miles before encountering another vehicle, which transported her to an ambulance. ALERT Air Ambulance from Kalispell arrived and transported Kornak to Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

According to a GoFundMe page established to help raise money for Kornak’s medical care, she received two skull fractures as well as severe lacerations to her head, neck, and back in the attack. Because the grizzly approached her from behind, she was able to deploy her bear spray on the animal.

She underwent extensive surgery after arriving at the hospital in Kalispell and faces a lengthy recovery, according to the site.

The Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem covers about 2,600 square miles and is home to an estimated 53 grizzlies.