Bear attacks La Grande man after he shoots it twice

A bear attacked and injured a man Wednesday morning near La Grande, according to authorities.
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 4:08 PM PDT
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LA GRANDE, Ore. (KPTV) - A bear attacked and injured a man Wednesday morning near La Grande, according to authorities.

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

According to Craig Lankford of La Grande, the victim, he had shot a bear on Tuesday night while the bear harassed his chickens. This 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. on Wednesday 911 dispatch received a call of a bear attack at Owsley Canyon Road. Sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene and closed roads and the adjoining Mount Emily Recreation Area, knowing there was an injured bear in the area. The Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were notified and arrived a short time later to make a plan to search for the bear.

At about 10:44 a.m. and with assistance from USDA Wildlife Services, a bear that matched the victim’s description was found near the site of the attack and was euthanized, according to an official statement from law enforcement.

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 today at a hospital in La Grande, according to

“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 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.