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A grizzly bear researcher for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is recovering from serious injuries following a bear attack in Montana, and a rancher says one or more grizzlies killed two llamas 12 days earlier elsewhere in the state.
Amber Kornak, 28, of Libby, Mont., was working alone near a stream in the Cabinet Mountains south of Libby. She was collecting grizzly hair samples from bushes for DNA testing, said Jennifer Strickland, a USFWS spokeswoman.
Kornak, a seasonal employee, was just a couple of weeks into her “dream job” when she was attacked from behind, suffering two skull fractures and severe cuts to her head, neck and back, her friend, Jenna Hemer, wrote in a GoFundMe post soliciting money for her recovery.
Kornak sprayed the bear with repellent and walked two miles to her vehicle and drove for help, Hemer wrote.
She underwent four hours of surgery at Kalispell Regional Medical Center, including removal of bone fragments from her brain and is home facing a long recovery, Hemer wrote.
“She aims to make a full recovery and get back to doing what she’s passionate about, working with grizzly bears and other wildlife,” Hemer wrote.
Strickland said Kornak was following USFWS work protocols, and that those protocols are being reviewed.
Officials speculated noise from the stream may have prevented Kornak from hearing the bear approach, the Associated Press reported.
Dillon Tabish, a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman, said the incident is under investigation and the department will confirm the type of bear. Generally, black bears are less prone to attack humans than grizzlies.
The incident follows another attack 12 days earlier more than 100 miles southeast of Libby, when a grizzly or grizzlies broke through a fence at mid-day and killed two trained pack llamas worth about $4,500, the rancher who owned them told Capital Press. Ten other llamas were not injured, he said.
He asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals from environmental extremists.
Since the attack, he’s been locking his llamas in his barn at night and is installing electric fence to protect them and his family, he said. Their nearest neighbor is a quarter-mile away.
“We’ve had grizzlies in our yard occasionally but this was the first kill and it’s spooky to have them come in broad daylight,” he said. “We don’t go too far away from the house without bear spray. I used to carry a Ruger 454, but it gets heavy and I think spray is more effective.”