A grizzly bear attacked and killed a cyclist outside of Glacier National Park, officials have confirmed. The victim was killed on Wednesday about a mile from a West Glacier campground run by KOA, the Associated Press reports. Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said the mountain biker has been identified as 38-year-old Brad Treat.
Treat and another rider were riding along a trail in the Green Gate area north of the KOA campground off of U.S. 2. This is when, officials say, the grizzly bear spotted the two cyclists after being disturbed by them.
“Brad Treat and another rider were in the Halfmoon Lakes area of the Flathead National Forest Wednesday when they apparently surprised the bear,” Curry said. “The bear knocked Treat off his bike, and the second rider left to look for help.”
According to the Daily Inter Lake, Treat was a career law-enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service.
“Brad was an integral member of our area law enforcement team and a friend to us all,” Curry expressed.
Officials said armed police are looking for the bear but gave no more details on the operation. As of the time of this writing, officials have not yet located the animal. Treat’s body was found at the scene and was carried off by a rescue helicopter. From the air, the helicopter crew had spotted a grizzly in a nearby swamp but were unable to keep track of the animal.
Treat’s death marked the seventh grizzly fatality in the Northern Rockies since 2010. Bear attacks on humans are rare in the region, and only 10 deaths were recorded since the park was created in 1910.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that numbers suggest attacks by both grizzlies and black bears are on the rise in North America. While black bear fatalities remain rare, researchers say maulings and other aggressive incidents have become more common.
John Beecham, an experienced research biologist who spent nearly three decades with the Idaho Game and Fish Department, says the rise in bear attacks is mainly due to more people coming into contact with these dangerous predators.
“We have more people, we have more bears, and we have more people living in bear habitat,” Dr. Beecham was quoted as saying. “That’s a big part of what we’re dealing with.”
Grizzly bears have been declared a threatened species in 48 states since the 1970s, but the population is increasing, as are the conflicts between humans and bears. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a draft rule back in March to remove grizzly bears from the list of endangered species. Grizzlies have been a threatened species since 1975.
Forty years ago, when the bears first occupied the endangered species list, their population was less than 140 bears, which has now currently surged to around 700 in the Greater Yellowstone vicinity, Tech Times wrote.
The grizzlies from Glacier Park are among the approximately 1,000 bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which also includes the region of Bob Marshall, located south of the park. At least 700 more grizzlies live in and near Yellowstone National Park.
To prevent attacks, people living in areas with large or growing bear populations should be properly educated on the risks of living among bears and how to peacefully co-exist, ursinologists say.
These bears, which are between five and eight feet tall and can weigh more than 800 pounds, can be dangerous to humans, particularly if surprised or if humans come between a mother and her cubs. Despite their weight, they can run up to 55 kilometers an hour and have been repeatedly clocked running at speeds of 30 miles (48 kilometers) an hour.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]