A Week After Starting 'Dream Job,' a Bear Attack

Amber Kornak's quick thinking helped her survive mauling in the mountains of Montana
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2018 7:16 AM CDT
This June 20, 2014, file photo taken by an automatic trail camera provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service shows an adult female grizzly bear in the Cabinet Mountains in northwestern Montana.   (US Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File)

(Newser) – On May 11, Amber Kornak posted her new job on Facebook—a "dream job" with the US Fish and Wildlife Service that involved working with grizzly bears, People notes. But less than a week later, the 28-year-old was mauled by a bear in Montana, though her quick thinking helped her survive. The AP reports Kornak was working solo near a stream in the Cabinet Mountains on May 17, collecting grizzly hair samples, when the bear attacked. Kornak was able to grab her bear spray and drive the animal off. Then, despite serious injuries—including two skull fractures and several slashes on her head, back, and neck—Kornak trekked almost two miles to her vehicle and called for help. She was airlifted to a local medical facility and underwent four hours of surgery, which included drains in her skull to reduce brain swelling. She's since been taken out of the ICU and is recuperating.

Officials say the noise from the nearby water may have covered up the sound of the incoming bear. A Fish and Wildlife rep says Kornak carried all the right gear for working in a bear-heavy environment, including her satellite communication device and the bear spray. As for Kornak venturing out alone, the rep says there's no rule against it, but it's advisable for people to travel in groups of at least three to stay safer. A Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks statement says it's still not clear what kind of bear attacked Kornak; the Washington Post notes less-aggressive black bears also roam the area. A GoFundMe for Kornak has already raised more than $33,000 to help pay her bills while she's recuperating. "Anyone who knows Amber knows that she is fierce, and will fight like hell to recover as quickly as possible," says the friend who set up the fundraiser. (This teen awoke to a bear biting his head.)

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