PRIEST LAKE — A 60-year-old hiker and her dogs were attacked by a bear while hiking along the Chipmunk Rapids trail Tuesday near the Priest Lake Visitors Center.
The victim, whose name was not released, told officials she was walking her dogs along the established trail when what appeared to be a large black bear appeared in close proximity. It charged and lunged at the woman, knocking her to the ground, biting and clawing her on the head, her side and in the abdomen. The dogs also were injured in the attack.
While the woman did not have bear spray or a weapon, she was able to call relatives staying at a nearby cabin. The victim’s family responded to the scene about 30 minutes after being called, found the victim and called 911 to report the attack. When they arrived, the bear was still on the scene and had to swing a dog leash and yell at the bear to get it to leave, according to Idaho Fish and Game officials.
Bonner County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene shortly after the victim’s family and were able to get her up the trail and to safety, said Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game.
Life Flight responded and transported the woman to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane for treatment. None of her injuries appear to be life-threatening, IFG officials said.
The dogs were treated by a local veterinarian and will recover.
Authorities closed the trails around the center and area houndsmen, along with about a dozen dogs, have been enlisted to help track and locate the bear.
The incident is being investigated by the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State Police, U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Fish and Game.
Cooper said authorities don’t know why the bear attacked, adding the victim reported only seeing the one bear. It’s unknown if the bear is a male or female, or if there were cubs nearby. The victim reported the bear was “extremely large” and appeared to be black in color.
The trails surrounding the Priest Lake Visitor Center were closed about 10 a.m. following the attack.
Priest Lake has one of the highest bear densities anywhere, with about three bears per square mile in the area, Cooper said.
While bears are common in the Priest Lake area, incidents such as Tuesday’s attack are uncommon with bears normally trying to avoid human contact. When they do occur, the attacks can be traced to one of three causes — most are either because the bear is startled or habituated to people; the third, predatory attacks, are the most rare.
“When she first saw it, the bear was very close,” Cooper said. “This might be a case of wrong place, wrong time.”
Caroline Lobsinger can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @CarolDailyBee.