The woman was on a cycling trip and was camping for the night when the attack happened early Tuesday morning, said Greg Lemon, administrator of communications for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
A team from Fish, Wildlife and Parks used tracks and details at the scene to identify the species, Lemon said. Authorities plan to euthanize the bear if it is found, he said.
“It’s rare for us to have a human and grizzly bear encounter that results in a fatality,” Lemon said. “But it happens every year that people and bears have conflicts.”
Powell County Sheriff Gavin Roselles said details about the victim’s identity won’t be released until family members have been notified.
The sheriff’s office has joined with Fish, Wildlife and Parks team to locate the bear if it’s still in the area.
Rosalles said he’s shut down established camping spots around Ovando until the bear is found or confirmed to not be in the area.
“We’ve conducted both air operations and ground searches to attempt to locate the bear, with no success at this time,” Rosalles said.
The campsite where Tuesday’s attack took place was in a part of Montana that US Fish and Wildlife Services have sectioned off as a “recovery ecosystem” for grizzly bears, which are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in all areas of Montana.
But Lemon said most of the time, humans and grizzly bears are able to share the landscape without issues. And when they do have issues, it’s usually during archery season, which overlaps in the late summer and early fall.
On Monday night, a video camera from a local business caught footage of a grizzly bear, Lemon said. There were also reports a bear got into a chicken coop. Lemon said it’s likely the disturbances were all from the same bear.
“It’s a scenario where people have homes and families and businesses, and to have something like this happen within that sort of environment, it’s unsettling,” Lemon said.