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Bear mauling victim treated and released

May 14, 2008
By ERIC LONG - elong@sungazette.com
A woman who was mauled by a black bear Monday night was treated at an area hospital and released, according to state Game Commission officials, who are investigating the encounter.

A 44-year-old woman and her dog were attacked when they encountered a black bear in the 200 block of Dunwoody Road, Plunketts Creek Township, said rescue personnel who were called to the scene.

Attacks by black bears on humans are rare, according to commission officials at the agency’s Northcentral Region office in Antes Fort.

According to Wildlife Conservation Officer Jon Wyant, the woman went outside her home near Barbours to take her bird feeders down and let her dog out between 9 and 9:30 p.m.

“Right outside the patio door, the dog went after the bear and the woman went after the dog,” Wyant said. “The bear swatted the dog and the dog had to be euthanized. The woman went to go back toward her house and the bear caught her. She had bites on her leg, damage to her hand, and the bear may have swatted her on her head.”

Wyant said the woman’s family asked that her name not be released. He said she was treated at Williamsport Hospital, released and is recovering at home.

“There has been a mother bear with two cubs sighted in that area, so that is what I suspect,” Wyant said. “It is a pretty typical scenario, of a mother bear in defense of her cubs.”

A female black bear with cubs will attack anything she perceives to be a threat to her cubs until she feels the threat is past, he said. If that is the case, the bear was not acting as a predator toward the woman.

“We set a bear trap at the residence this morning,” Wyant said. “But even if we catch a bear, we won’t be able to say for certain that it is the bear that attacked the woman.”

Northcentral Region Director Dennis Dusza said the agency is continuing to investigate the incident.

Fewer than 15 people have been injured by bears in Pennsylvania in the past 10 years, according to Mark Ternent, bear biologist for the Game Commission.

Such encounters almost always involve female bears, Wyant said, adding that encounters that result in injury are uncommon.

“When you consider how many people have encounters with them, it is rare,” he said. “There are tens of thousands of human interactions with bears, and we end up with maybe one or two that result in injury each year.”

He said the best advice when encountering a bear is to treat it like a stray dog. On the Game Commission’s Web site, advice given includes to avoid feeding wildlife, taking down bird feeders in the spring and bringing them in at night during the summer months, and keeping garbage and pet foods secure.

It also recommends keeping a distance between yourself and a bear if one shows up in your yard, to shout at it like you would an unwanted dog.

Other tips include cleaning outside gas grills and properly disposing of the grease.

In an encounter, the Game Commission recommends leaving the area calmly if the bear hasn’t seen you. In a close encounter, back away slowly while facing the bear, while avoiding direct contact.

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