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Montana wildlife technician recovering from bear attack near Libby

Posted at 2:23 PM, May 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-21 16:23:01-04

KALISPELL – A woman who was reportedly attacked by a bear in the Cabinet Mountains near Libby has been taken out of the ICU at a Kalispell hospital.

Amber Kornak was in her first full week working with Montana Fish, Wildlife and parks when she was attacked in the Poorman Creek area on the morning of May 18.

She suffered two skull fractures and several lacerations to her head, neck and back. Kornak then hiked two miles back to her car after the attack to get help.

Authorities have not yet determined whether it was grizzly bear or a black bear that attacked Kornak.

“It’s really a testament to the kind of person she is. She is so strong and so loving and so compassionate in everything she does. I think everybody feels that way, whether they’ve known her for years or known her for five minutes. It’s pretty evident that she is a strong woman and would do anything for anybody," Jenna Hemer, a friend of Amber’s who created a fundraising account to help, told MTN News.

The GoFundMe page states, in part:

Please keep our dear Amber Kornak and her family in your thoughts and prayers. As those who know her may know, it has been Amber’s dream to work with grizzly bears. She recently accepted a seasonal position in Libby, Montana for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Grizzly Bear Wildlife Technician.  

On the morning of Thursday, May 17th, 2018, while  working alone remotely in the Cabinet Mountains south of Libby, MT she was mauled by a bear, suffering 2 skull fractures as well as severe lacerations to her head, neck, and back. As the bear attacked her from behind she was able to reach her bear spray and spray the deterrent to ward off the bear, and also spraying herself. Amber’s wildlife training skills kicked in, and she somehow managed to stay calm and hike 2 miles from the site of the attack to her work vehicle where she then drove to find help.

She endured 4 grueling hours of surgery to remove bone fragments and clean wounds to her brain. Metal plates and screws were placed on her skull and drains were placed in her brain to relieve brain swelling and drain fluid. Her condition is now stable, and she is recovering in the ICU where they can keep her comfortable with pain medications and monitor her for seizures (from the brain swelling) and watch for signs of infection (from the extent of her wounds). 

Click here if you would like to help.

General tips to stay safe in bear country:

  • Carry and know how to use bear pepper spray for emergencies.
  • Travel in groups of three or more people whenever possible and plan to be out in the daylight hours.
  • Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
  • Make your presence known by talking, singing, carrying a bell, or other means, especially when near streams or in thick forest where visibility is low. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
  • Use caution in areas like berry patches where bears occur.
  • Don’t approach a bear; respect their space and move off.