KALISPELL - The elderly woman attacked by a black bear inside her home west of Kalispell over the weekend has died from injuries she sustained in the incident.
Barbara Paschke, 85, died at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Kalispell Regional Medical Center, Flathead County Undersheriff Dave Leib said.
She was attacked Sunday.
Earlier Thursday, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said they had euthanized two food-conditioned black bears captured at Paschke’s residence in the last two days – and they still don’t believe they’ve captured the one that attacked the woman.
Paschke had been actively feeding bears on her property, located in a rural area between Batavia, a small unincorporated area on Highway 2 west of Kalispell, and Ashley Lake, FWP said.
“The investigation to date shows that the woman was attacked inside her residence, that she was actively feeding bears, and that numerous bears have been frequenting the property,” FWP Region 1 spokesman John Fraley said.
Making matters worse, according to FWP bear and lion specialist Erik Wenum: Someone else in the area is clearly still feeding bears.
Wenum performed necropsies on the two bears that were put down, and found large amounts of millet and sunflower seeds – clear evidence of artificial feeding – in their digestive tracts.
“Someone is hampering our investigation by continuing to extensively feed bears, making our efforts to attract and trap the offending bear that much more difficult,” Wenum said.
The two bears were anesthetized and then euthanized. One was a 162-pound adult female, and the other a young female that weighed 99 pounds.
Fraley said investigators believe neither was involved in the attack, but their conditioning to being fed by humans made them a danger to local residents.
“This is a very unfortunate situation,” FWP Warden Capt. Lee Anderson said. “These bears were extremely habituated and food-conditioned, and they posed a danger to the people who live in the area.
“The last thing we wanted to do is to kill these bears. But we had no choice because of the danger they pose to local residents.”
Anderson and other FWP officials made the comments before Paschke’s death was announced. The woman had not been identified prior to Thursday.
Anderson said FWP does not know how many bears were food-conditioned at the woman’s residence.
Montana law prohibits the feeding of bears, and FWP investigator Brian Sommers said whoever is continuing to feed the animals can be charged with obstruction of an investigation.
Fed bears can lead to aggressive behavior in the animals and the inability or lack of desire to fend for themselves once supplemental feed is removed, Sommers said.
That, in turn, can lead to bears breaking into homes, buildings, trailers and vehicles in search of food, and endangers humans, pets and livestock.
That makes fed bears a significant public safety issue, and sets up what’s now happening outside Kalispell – their permanent removal from the system.
Paschke was hospitalized after Sunday’s attack, which Sommers termed “severe.” At last report, authorities had not determined how the bear entered Paschke's home, but said it definitely departed through a window.
Neil Anderson, Region 1 wildlife manager, said relocating the black bears that were captured was not an option at this point.
“As wildlife managers we have a responsibility to ensure public safety,” he said. “It would be irresponsible to release these potentially dangerous bears somewhere else when the bears are habituated to people and in such a food-conditioned state.”