A U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer was mauled to death by a bear, believed to be a grizzly, while mountain biking Wednesday afternoon near Montana's Glacier National Park, authorities said.
The victim, identified as 38-year-old Brad Treat, a native of Kalispell, was biking with a friend on U.S. Forest Service land near Halfmoon Lakes when the fatal attack occurred, the Flathead Beacon reports.
Authorities told the paper that an initial investigation suggests the bear took Treat off his bike after the two people spooked the animal. Treat died at the scene, while the second rider escaped without injuries.
The Beacon reports that a search continued Thursday for the animal, which was initially identified as a grizzly.
"We are attempting to capture and/or confirm the identity of the offending bear," Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Warden Captain Lee Anderson told the paper. “When we have more information we will decide what actions to take.”
In a statement Thursday, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he was saddened to hear of Treat's death.
"My thoughts are with Officer Treat’s family and loved ones as they grapple with this tragic news and a devastating loss," he said. "We are grateful for Officer Treat’s selfless service and share in mourning a life that was taken too soon. The brave men and women of the U.S. Forest Service risk their lives every day in difficult and challenging circumstances, and today we are reminded of their incredible service to our nation."
If the bear involved is confirmed to be a grizzly, it would be the first fatal attack by one in Northwest Montana since 2001, according to the Beacon. Since 1910, there have been 10 bear-related fatalities within Glacier National Park, The Associated Press reports.