WEST GLACIER — The first bear attack inside Glacier National Park this year has left a park employee hospitalized.
Glacier spokesman Tim Rains said the woman was picking huckleberries near Red Rock Falls west of Many Glacier early Saturday evening when she surprised what is believed to be a grizzly bear and two cubs.
The woman, who was carrying bear spray but was unable to deploy it, suffered injuries to the back of her legs and her hands.
The park employee’s hiking companion, and two other hikers, heard the attack and helped the victim walk most of the way back to the trailhead. Rains said park rangers met the party about three-quarters of a mile from the trailhead.
The victim was taken to Blackfeet Community Hospital in Browning, where she spent Saturday night before being transferred to Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Rains said she remains hospitalized, and is being monitored for potential infections.
The incident has been determined to be a “rapid non-predatory attack,” Rains said, meaning park officials believe the bear reacted in self-defense.
It has not been confirmed that the bear was a grizzly, but Rains said rangers believe that to be the case. Witnesses reported seeing a grizzly and two cubs leaving the vicinity shortly after the attack.
There has been an increase of bear sightings during berry season, Rains said. People are allowed to pick huckleberries in the park, but are limited to one quart.
The last bear attack inside the park happened Sept. 29, 2015, when a Wisconsin man said he was “grabbed and shaken” by a grizzly while hiking off trail and alone near Mount Henkel in the Many Glacier Valley.
The man said he surprised a grizzly sow and her two cubs, and was able to deploy his bear spray.
He suffered puncture wounds to his legs and injuries to a hand. He hiked out to Many Glacier and drove himself to a hospital in Cut Bank, and reported the attack the next day.
Two months ago a bicyclist was killed by a grizzly bear just outside the park’s border, near West Glacier. Brad Treat, a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service, was mauled to death after he and his bike collided with the bear on a trail with limited sight distances.
The last lethal bear attack inside the park occurred in 1998.
The latest attack occurred about a quarter of a mile off the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, which was closed after the incident but reopened on Monday.