Survival Animal Attacks

Montana River Guide Attacked by a Bear While Cowboy Camping

The guide was sleeping on the ground during an overnight trip on the Flathead River when a bear came through camp
Katie Hill Avatar
black bear attacks rafting guide

Black bears are good swimmers and often forage near rivers. mtatman / Adobe Stock

A morning on the job turned into a nightmare for one commercial river guide when she awoke to a bear attacking her on June 7. The group, which included two guides and three guests, were camping near Nyack, Montana, along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River at the time.

The guide was sleeping outside on the ground when she was attacked around 6 a.m., according to a press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The bear in question is believed to be a black bear. 

Bear spray was deployed, although it is unclear whether the victim was the one to use it. The bear was not deterred and returned to camp multiple times. The victim was transported to Logan Health in Whitefish with non-life-threatening injuries. 

MFWP, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service are conducting a joint investigation into the scene. MFWP is also looking for the bear. Nyack sits on Route 2 in Flathead National Forest, immediately south of Glacier National Park. 

This case is reminiscent of another instance from August 2022 when a black bear attacked a young man who was sleeping outside on a ranch in New Mexico’s Santa Fe National Forest. Paul Georgoulis woke up to a black bear closing its jaws around his head. The bear ran away when he screamed, but not before tearing a few gashes in his scalp. 

Georgoulis sprinted into rancher Dean Dommer’s home and eventually received 16 staples in his head. He later described it “like something out of the movie Deliverance. I was in my underwear, bleeding like a stuck pig, screaming and running at this log cabin in the middle of nowhere.”

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Black bear attacks are rare. But when food conditioning and habituation make bears more comfortable around humans, attacks become more likely. Sows will also defend their cubs with ferocity, like when a Colorado woman was attacked while covering her hot tub in the middle of the night. She was unaware that a sow and three cubs were in the immediate vicinity and received multiple lacerations to her back and arm. The sow and one cub were euthanized, while the other two cubs were tranquilized and transported to a rehabilitation facility.