Bear Spray Fatality: Camper Used Bear Spray, was Killed by Grizzly Bear

iStock-1281962973
Bear Spray Fatality: Camper Used Bear Spray, was Killed by Grizzly Bear iStock-1281962973

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.)

While not the first bear spray fatality in 2021, the attack and defensive failure are well documented in the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) report released June 28, 2022.

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.

Scene five hours after Leah Lokan was Killed by Grizzly Bear in Ovando, MT

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.  

Read: Glock 20 SF 10mm Auto Pistol Review

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.

Analysis:

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.

Dean Weingarten

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StLPro2A

Currently reading “Mark of the Grizzly” by Scott McMillion, 1998, detailing multiple grizzly encounters…..interesting and scary….apex, professional predators…..they kill for a living…..just another “think I’ll do lunch” scenario. Each grizzly has a personal space and circumstance envelope which changes at whim. Violate their space comfort level, pay the toll.

2AGunster

Would been better off with a bb gun

Gofer

When I camp in “bear country”, especially a known griz area, I sleep in my truck, my car or some other very hard sided mode of transportation. When I’m out panning for gold, I always have a side-arm on my person. I suppose, being in a “village” (?) they felt much safer. But, like most tourists, they were very ignorant of camping in bear country. You can’t tell tourists how dangerous a bear or even a Moose is. They just cannot fathom that a “cute” critter could be dangerous to their lives. If you see a bear wandering around your… Read more »

Desert Rat

I thought bear “spray” was 00Buck and bear defense was slugs.

MP71

The most effective use of bear spray I’ve seen was in a video from the summer of 2020. A group of “peaceful protesters” surrounded a car trying to leave a parking garage. The driver opened the car’s sunroof and emptied a can of bear spray on the miscreants.

Kruzer

When fishing or camping in a bear’s backyard my bear spray is 10 MM or 9×21 loaded with hard cast bullets. Very effective bear spray in the form of semi-auto.

Nurph

So, she died spicy by using bear spray.

JayWPB

When she removed the food from her tent, did she also remove all the food odor from her tent, her sleeping bag, her clothes, her hands, etc? As for bear spray, have you ever been near a wild bear? If you’re lucky, the bear will thank you for the Bear Deodorant!

OlTrailDog

Once again the real problem ignored: another Californian being in Montana. 😉

Gofer

I live in NW Mt, where we’re being totally over-run with left coasters moving in. I can sure relate to your comment. The Montana I grew up in, is dying rapidly.

Last edited 1 month ago by Gofer
None

And that’s why in Alaska bear spray is for greenies and 10mm and bigger is for those of us who want to stay alive when out in the bush or even your yard in many places.

LostCoz

My wife and I were dry camping east of Ovando when that happened last year and the article mentions the attack was unprovoked, but there is a presumption it was provoked! Not by physical means by the victim but by failing to follow basic rules. The victim failed to obey the rules while camping in Grizzly Country, yes Ovando is smack in the middle. The 1st rule is store your food properly, and not where you sleep! Even in the article you noted she had food in her tent. The second failure was thinking the Grizzly wouldn’t come back when… Read more »

musicman44mag

I’m sure the bear was thinking, Oh this leftist is tastier than the last one! It’s your own fault when your perception of the world is that everything is ok and there is nothing to be concerned about here. I am sure They/them/whatever hated guns. Chico state is the northern part of kommiefornias and is like UCLA or Davis. Very hip, ride your bike, drive electric, save the trees and don’t eat animals, they have feelings too. Sorry to sound so cold but I am tired of hearing the bleeding hearts that cry out for someone’s stupidity just as much… Read more »

Bigfootbob

I am so sorry for this woman and her friends and family, I read the sidebar, Leah Lokan remembered, she will be sorely missed. I hate to sound callous, blaming a victim does nothing but make me look heartless, but people have to have a clue when doing dangerous things. One would not venture off on a transoceanic adventure without proper provisions, why venture into Grizzly country with only vaporized hot sauce? SMH! ‘44mag, you nailed this lady to a tee. She checked all the “good liberal” boxes. From Chico-Big Check, Nurse-ditto (most nurses I have encountered here on the… Read more »

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musicman44mag

Glad we see it the same. The only thing I didn’t mention was the Subaru and in a bet I think I would win. So predictable.

Duane

Having trained with and carried spray. It is know to be a very poor substitute for a firearm in a deadly force situation. Law enforcement all over the country are trained to have a deadly force option backing up spray when using it against an armed opponent. Bears are always armed with impact, stabbing and cutting weapons’. Bears always have a size, speed and strength advantage. If a human attacked you being armed and having huge physical advantage. One would be justified in using deadly force to defended oneself. The idea that one has to give a wild animal more… Read more »

musicman44mag

Ya, no comonsense.

gregs

well the cute little teddy bear on her bed didn’t hurt her, so this one being larger also wouldn’t hurt her, right?

swmft

bear spray poor substitute for a gun

Last edited 1 month ago by swmft
musicman44mag

But guns kill !!!!!! Pepper spray won’t really harm the bear and it is only temporary. Must not harm the wildlife, after all, we are in their backyard encroaching on their habitat.

None

I get the humor

Bigfootbob

That habitat excuse for being stupid really highlights their stupidity.

musicman44mag

I compare it to going into the lions cage without at the least a whip and chair and I would still have a gun on my hip.

Ope

I think most bear spray just pisses them off more than anything else. If you’re in bear country have quality dependable firearms and ammunition at the ready.