PABLO – A 42-year-old Salish Kootenai College student is recovering after being attacked by a grizzly bear near campus Friday.
The Polson man was bitten three times in the arm and head areas after a sow charged him at 10:30 a.m. near Mud Creek behind the student housing area of campus. The bear was surprised by the man in the brushy area by the creek. Two yearling cubs were nearby, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation reports.
As of Monday, the man was stable and recuperating at Kalispell Regional Medical Center, where he was taken after the attack, said Karen Sargeant, spokeswoman for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office
The bear is under continued evaluation, and the sow and her two cubs appear to have headed back into the Missions, said Germaine White, CSKT information and education specialist.
“They felt that the most appropriate response at this point was to monitor her,” White said, adding that the sow’s response to being surprised with her cubs was normal if unfortunate.
“On behalf of the entire Tribal Natural Resources Department, I want to express our deep sympathy to the man who was attacked, and we wish him a full and speedy recovery,” said Rich Janssen, who heads the department.
Bear attack instances are rare, with the last reported in the early 1990s. However both black and grizzly bears call Flathead Reservation home, and a grizzly management area is in place near McDonald Lake. The bears are especially active at low elevations in the spring when they emerge from higher elevations where they hibernated, White said.
In response to the incident, the college went on lockdown Friday and students were asked to stay indoors or travel in large groups if necessary. College officials also made the decision to cancel afternoon classes.
“We’re pretty much on a shutdown,” Audrey Plouffe said Friday shortly after the attack took place.
“The hard part is getting people to take (the alert) seriously,” said Plouffe, the college’s interim vice president of business affairs. “We mean business and so does the bear.”
The deserted grounds seemed to indicate that students had gotten the message.
“We were told to stay indoors,” Thomas Tall Bull said as he leaned out the window of his SKC student housing unit.
Tall Bull, a senior studying fish and wildlife, said he’s seen bears before, but never near campus.
“I’m just thankful for the alert and that they’re letting people know,” he said, referring to the campus alert system, which, among other things, sends text messages to student and college employee phones.
Only a couple hundred yards away, at the clubhouse of the Silver Fox Golf Course, SKC student and Silver Fox employee Reed Anderson Jr. echoed his gratitude for the alert system. He was on the course practicing his chipping when he received word of the attack.
“We knew about it quick,” Anderson said.
“Good thing it’s raining and nobody is out there (on the course),” Anderson added.