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La Grande man who shot bear twice for harassing his chickens is attacked by bear, which authorities later euthanized

Black bear
Black bear

Man expected to recover; 'wounded bears can be dangerous,' ODFW notes

LA GRANDE, Ore. (KTVZ) — A La Grande man who shot a bear for harassing his chickens Tuesday evening, then shot it again near his property Wednesday morning was then attacked by the bear, prompting an area closure as authorities found and fatally shot the animal, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

The Union County Sheriff’s Office, ODFW and Oregon State Police responded to a bear attack Wednesday morning in the Mount Emily Recreation Area near La Grande. 

According to the victim, Craig Lankford, he had shot a bear Tuesday evening while the bear had harassed his chickens. Wednesday morning, he went to search for the bear, encountered it near his property, and shot it again. Shortly afterwards, the bear attacked him. 

At about 7:37 a.m. Wednesday, dispatchers got a call reporting a bear attack on a person on Owsley Canyon Road.

Sheriff's deputies responded to the area and arrived at the same time as medical services. The sheriff's office immediately closed roads and the adjoining Mount Emily Recreation Area, knowing there was an injured bear in the area.

OSP and ODFW were notified. All notified agencies arrived a short time later and promptly made a plan to search for the bear.  

Around 10:44 a.m., with assistance from USDA Wildlife Services, a bear consistent with the victim’s description and near the site of the attack was located and shot (euthanized). A necropsy was later performed and bullet fragments consistent with the victim’s report confirmed that the bear taken was the one involved in the attack. 

The victim suffered injuries to his arms and head but is expected to recover after being treated at a La Grande hospital, ODFW said. 

“We are grateful Mr. Lankford survived this encounter and wish him a smooth and speedy recovery,” said ODFW Watershed Manager Jeff Yanke.  

Wounded bears can be dangerous. ODFW is aware of at least three incidents when wounded bears attacked hunters who had shot but not killed them. None were fatal.  

Bear attacks are rare, the agency said, but tend to occur when bears are wounded, when they are being fed by people and lose their natural wariness, or when they are surprised by people or their dogs. Oregon has not documented any fatal bear attacks.  

Oregon is home to an estimated 25,000-30,000 bears. Everyone recreating outdoors or living in bear country is encouraged to take simple steps to reduce the risk of bear encounters and conflict. More information is available at  

The Union County Sheriff’s Office said it would like to thank the Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for their quick response and partnership in this situation.

Article Topic Follows: Wildlife

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