U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)-– In the early morning hours of July 6, 2021, in the village of Ovando, Montana, mere feet from several buildings, Leah Lokan was attacked by a 417-pound grizzly bear. She valiantly used bear spray in an attempt to stop the attack. The bear spray failed. Ms. Lokan was a small but strong woman. She was killed in the unprovoked predatory attack. (Leah Lokan is remembered by a friend.)
The 417 lb boar grizzly first approached the two tents of Leah Lokan and her acquaintances at about 3:08 a.m on the morning of July 6, 2022. From igbcconline.org:
The victim’s sister, Kim Lokan, identified the victim as Leah Davis Lokan, a 65-year-old female resident of Chico, California. Investigators responding to the scene found two tents. Leah Lokan had been sleeping alone in one tent. The other tent, belonging to acquaintances of the victim Joe and Kim Cole, was approximately 20 feet from the victim’s tent and was undisturbed (Figure 2, Figure 3). After going to bed earlier in the night, the Coles were awakened at approximately 3:08 am by Ms. Lokan crying out “bear, bear.” The bear was several feet from the two tents, exploring the area at the time Ms. Lokan became alerted. Joe and Kim Cole both had Counter Assault brand bear spray with them in their tent. They woke up; Joe grabbed Kim’s bear spray and they both began making noise. The bear walked off to the north into the field area behind the Ovando store and the bear spray was not used at the time. Ms. Lokan said, “the bear huffed at my head.” Ms. Lokan got up and moved two bags of food (packaged snack foods and a large bag of lentils) from her tent into a building known as the old jail at the museum, which was the building next door to the campsite, approximately 25 to 30 feet from her tent. She also took a can of Frontiersman brand bear spray into her tent. The Coles did not have any food in their tent. The Coles asked Ms. Lokan if she wanted to stay in the hotel but Ms. Lokan stated “no,” she wanted to stay in the tent. They all went back to bed.
Important facts are noted. Ms. Lokan took her can of bear spray into the tent with her. The grizzly was comfortable moving among human-occupied buildings inside a village. The report discloses bears had not been in the village recently, and the village had good food and bear attractant discipline.
More is revealed in the investigation. The bear came back an hour later, attacked Ms. Lokan without provocation, and killed her after she emptied a can of bear spray while defending herself. From igbcconline.org:
The victim’s journal and cell phone were collected from the tent footprint. A journal entry from July 2nd described that the victim practiced deploying bear spray after observing bear signs in and around the area where she was camping at Holland Lake near the town of Seeley Lake, Montana. Nothing of evidentiary value was found in the phone.
Also, inside the tent was the safety retention tab for a can of bear spray. An almost completely empty can of Frontiersman brand bear spray, black with a white label and missing the safety tab, was found under the tent. This can was assumed to be Lokan’s. The can had a fresh oily residue on the outside and had a strong odor of capsaicin, suggesting it had been deployed the morning of the attack.
Leah Lokan had practiced deploying bear spray only four days earlier. She had the bear spray with her in her tent. When attacked, she was able to remove the safety tab and use the spray, emptying the can. In spite of this defensive action, the grizzly bear killed her. The fatal wounds were nearly instantaneous, showing the spray had to be emptied while she was defending herself, attempting to stop the attack.
The empty can of bear spray was found under the tent, which had been dragged several feet forward, during the attack. The bear spray safety tab was found inside the tent. This would be consistent with Leah extending the bear spray outside the tent and spraying the bear outside the tent, after removing the bear spray safety tab inside the tent. The report does not mention any bear spray residue inside of the tent.
Ms. Lokan’s body was found half in, half outside of the tent, where she had been dragged by the bear.
From the autopsy included in the IGBC report:
The Montana State Medical Examiner conducted the autopsy on July 7, 2021. The autopsy indicated that the victim had been in good health prior to her death. The medical examiner concluded that the victim’s death was caused by multiple blunt force injuries of the head, torso, and right upper extremity, the neck had been broken and spinal cord severed as well as blood vessels. The injuries sustained caused the death to be instantaneous. The manner of death was determined to be accidental due to the injuries sustained as the result of being attacked by a grizzly bear. The toxicology report detected ibuprofen and other medications, that may or may not have affected the victim’s response to the attack, in the victim’s blood but did not detect alcohol.
Leah Lokan depended on bear spray to be an effective defense against an attacking bear. The bear spray failed. While the acquaintances in the tent nearby also had bear spray, the report concludes it was acquaintance Joe Cole’s aggressive response that drove off the bear. From the report:
At approximately 4:05 am, Joe Cole was awoken again by a noise that made him realize Lokan was being attacked, although she had not yelled out. He immediately started yelling “bear, bear!” He unzipped his tent while yelling in a roaring-like voice and deployed his bear spray as he crawled out of the tent. Kim followed him and began blowing her whistle. The dark shape of the bear was just on the other side of Lokan’s tent, “pouncing up and down” on Ms. Lokan and her tent, as Joe approached continuing to spray. The bear made eye contact with Joe, then averted its head as they approached closer, turned, and left. The back of the tent was still standing but as they approached, they could see that Ms. Lokan and tent had been dragged by the bear approximately 8 to 10 feet (Figures 2, 3) and Ms. Lokan was half out of the tent and sleeping bag showing no signs of life…..
There is no way of knowing how much bear spray the bear received nor what impact the bear spray may have had on the bear. However, it is obvious that the bear left the attack scene because of Joe’s aggressive response and action. The bear made no attempt to defend the body.
The report concludes this was a predatory attack by a grizzly bear. From the report:
This unfortunate incident appears to have been a predatory attack by a habituated or food conditioned bear.
While the report repeatedly attempts to link the presence of food to the predatory attack by the grizzly bear, the evidence suggests otherwise. Ms. Lokan did not have any food in the tent, other than her body. There was food in the packs on her bike, 10 feet away from the tent. The bear did not go after the food nearby on the bike, the bear attacked Ms. Lokan, in spite of her deploying bear spray.
This is a fatal bear spray failure. It is not the first. For those who attempt to define away fatal bear spray failures, consider a simple logical test. Replace the bear spray with a handgun, and decide if you would call it a fatal handgun failure.
The simple test is this:
A dead woman is found with a fired handgun near her, after she practiced with the handgun as a defense against bears, and took the handgun into the tent with her to defend against a known grizzly bear. The handgun has been fired during the attack, and is now empty, with the fired cases as evidence.
Would that be considered a fatal failure of the defensive use of a handgun to stop a bear attack?
The report does not mention any bear spray residue inside Leah Lokan’s tent. Readers should judge for themselves if this was a fatal bear spray failure.
Several days after Leah was attacked and killed without provocation, the bear which killed Leah was shot and killed. I suggest a better outcome could have resulted if Leah had a handgun with her inside the tent.
Ms. Lokan was able to access bear spray and empty the can. It is likely she could have shot and driven off or killed the bear when it attacked her.
Handguns have been shown to be 98% effective in stopping bear attacks.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.