Bozeman, MT — A biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) was attacked by a grizzly bear in the Centennial Valley Wednesday morning. The individual suffered serious bite wounds but is expected to recover fully.
The USFWS employee was working on a sage grouse monitoring project on Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge about a mile west of Elk Lake. The biologist heard a noise in the sagebrush and turned to see two grizzly bears in a close-encounter situation, approximately 80 to 100 yards away.
One bear stood up, and the other charged the biologist. The biologist deployed bear spray at the charging bear and throughout the attack until the attacking bear ran away with the other bear.
The biologist began leaving the site while reporting the incident to other USFWS staff, who came and helped the individual get medical attention. The biologist was transported to Rexburg, Idaho, for medical treatment and was released later Wednesday afternoon.
The biologist’s report indicates the bears may have been young siblings around three years old. Idaho Fish & Game assisted Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) in the early stages of the investigation, which is still ongoing.
Seven people have been injured this year by bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, including two recreationists in Montana. Grizzly bear populations continue to become denser and more widespread in Montana, increasing the likelihood that residents and recreationists will encounter them in new places. Being prepared for such encounters is more important than ever to keep people and property safe and to cultivate natural bear behavior.
Recreationists and people who work outdoors should always be prepared to handle a bear encounter. Most bear attacks on humans happen in surprise close encounters. Activities that are deliberately quiet or fast moving, such as hunting, mountain biking or trail running, put people at greater risk for surprising a bear. When you’re outside, keep these precautions in mind:
- Be aware of your surroundings and look for bear sign.
- Read signs at trailheads and stay on trails. Be especially careful around creeks and in areas with dense brush.
- Carry bear spray. Know how to use it and be prepared to deploy it at a second’s notice.
- Travel in groups whenever possible and make casual noise, which can help alert bears to your presence.
- Stay away from animal carcasses, which often attract bears.
- Follow U.S. Forest Service (USFS) food storage orders, which have been in effect for public lands in Montana since March 1.
- If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Back away slowly and leave the area.
Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Management authority for grizzlies rests with the USFWS, working closely in Montana with FWP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, the USFS and Tribal lands. This collaboration happens through the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.
For more information on avoiding negative encounters with bears, visit igbconline.org/bear-safety.
Montana State University was recently named the best college for LGBTQ+ students in the state of Montana, a recognition made by BestColleges.com in partnership with the nonprofit organization Campus Pride.
BestColleges.com released two rankings – the Best Colleges for LGBTQ+ Students and the Best Colleges for LGBTQ+ Students in Each State – both of which aim to help students of various gender and sexual identities find an inclusive and quality institution for their college journey, according to an accompanying news release. LGBTQ refers to individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning. The plus sign in LGBTQ+ is intended to include individuals who identify with other communities, such as intersex, non-binary and pansexual.
The Best Colleges for LGBTQ+ Students ranking recognizes U.S. schools that have established the highest standards for inclusive environments while maintaining strong academic programs for students. The Best Colleges for LGBTQ+ Students in Each State ranking offers a guide for prospective students to identify schools that are culturally inclusive, affordable and closer to their location. The schools featured on the list were vetted by Campus Pride using their knowledge of the LGBTQ+ education landscape.
“Every student deserves to go to a college that is inclusive and a safe space – to learn, live and grow,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride. “This June for Pride Month we want to show our campus pride for all the campuses working hard to create safer, more LGBTQ-friendly learning environments.”
In its accompanying write-up about MSU, BestColleges.com noted that MSU offers a variety of resources to help LGBTQ+ students succeed.
BestColleges.com wrote that MSU's Diversity and Inclusion Student Commons features education and advocacy tools for students interested in learning about gender identity issues on campus. It also noted that the university ensures gender-neutral housing and restroom accommodations for LGBTQ+ students, that MSU offers a student support group for LGBTQ+ students and allies who have concerns or questions and that individuals can find incident reporting forms online.
MSU earned four out of five stars on BestColleges.com’s Campus Pride Index, which examines colleges and universities’ efforts to create safer, more inclusive campuses. MSU earned especially high scores in LGBTQ+ counseling and health, policy inclusion, housing and residence life, and recruitment and retention efforts.
BestColleges.com also recognized MSU for planning regular social and educational events centered around LGBTQ+ individuals and issues and for offering specific course listings for LGBTQ+ classes and an LGBTQ+ studies program.
Ariel Donohue, MSU’s senior diversity and inclusion officer, said the recognition from BestColleges.com is evidence of MSU’s sustained efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive campus culture.
“This work includes strengthening a sense of belonging amongst LGBTQ+ students, improving training and professional development, examining our practices and offerings, and seeking areas for further growth,” Donohue said. “Thanks to the commitment of many partners across the university and the involvement of student leaders, we will continue to develop this welcoming and affirming community.”
More information about the Campus Pride Index is available at campusprideindex.org/.
How many people in the U.S. have had COVID-19? Using a database of information collected after the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, a Montana State University researcher is helping develop a better understanding of the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Alex Washburne, a researcher in the Bozeman Disease Ecology Lab, which is housed in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, published a paper on the subject this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The paper uses data from ILINet a database created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010 to count patients who check into medical clinics with influenza-like illnesses, or ILI. That type of data collection for the purpose of identifying trends is known as syndromic surveillance.
Influenza-like illnesses include any number of infections that carry symptoms similar to the seasonal flu — such as fever, cough and sore throat. Both influenza-like H1N1 and non-influenza diseases like COVID-19 fall into that group. Monitoring trends in ILI clinic visits, Washburne said, could help better understand how quickly and extensively COVID-19 spread during the early days of its appearance in the U.S.
In collaboration with researchers at Pennsylvania State and Cornell universities, Washburne examined the number of ILI visits reported each week over the last decade and compared those historical trends to such visits during March 2020. They identified a surge in March 2020 ILI visits that parallels regional increases in COVID-19 cases.
By examining ILI data alongside the known regional prevalence of COVID-19, Washburne and his collaborators determined that there may have been many cases of the coronavirus disease that weren’t initially identified as such.
Washburne and his colleagues estimate that as many as 87% of coronavirus cases were not diagnosed during early March, which could translate to around 8.7 million people based on the excess March ILI visits. The surge in ILI diminished quickly in the latter part of March, leading researchers to conclude that more cases of COVID-19 were being identified since fewer ILI reports were being logged in the database.
“Early on there seems to have been a low case detection rate, but as time went on that changed,” said Washburne. “By the last week in March, as more and more testing was going on, that case detection rate increased significantly.”
This is good news for scientists seeking to predict and prepare for future epidemics, said Washburne. A baseline has been established through a decade of ILI data collection that allows for the early detection of anomalous surges of ILI that deviate from the annual average.
With much of the research about COVID-19 happening as the pandemic unfolds, Washburne said syndromic surveillance like this shows researchers and the medical community one piece of a larger story. When coupled with COVID-19 testing efforts and serological surveys, which seek to identify the proportion of a population with immunity to an illness, this type of data collection and analysis can illuminate a piece of the puzzle that helps outline our understanding of coronavirus as a whole, he said, while also offering insight for future potential epidemics.
Washburne also said that syndromic surveillance using tools like ILINet could be applied in areas where widespread testing is too expensive.
“For communities that may not have the capacity for more large-scale testing, this may be able to help give them a picture of the movement of their epidemic in time and space,” he said. “That way they can know when to implement actions like mask wearing and social distancing measures.”
The practice of collecting data ahead of a potential outbreak is an investment in future public health, Washburne said. This research into COVID-19 wouldn’t have been possible without the creation of the database after H1N1, so continuing to expanding the baseline data collected for other illnesses could be crucial in navigating future pandemics.
“All these different methods can be used to cross-validate each other,” he said. “We know if our other methods don’t work optimally, we have additional resources. Things like this can really help us be better prepared in the future.”