A black bear attacked a woman just before 10 p.m. on November 2 in Winhall, Vermont after the woman’s Shih Tzu treed the sow’s cub. Sarah Dietl, 43, was discharged from the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in stable condition the following day, according to a Vermont Fish and Wildlife (VFW) press release.
Dietl told the VFW that she was taking her dog Bodhi out for an evening walk, but upon reaching the yard of their condominium, Bodhi bolted, chasing a bear cub up a tree. A moment later, Dietl was under attack herself. The cub’s mother charged her, knocked her to the ground, and began mauling her. “She came running out of the dark. She ran right to me,” Dietl told the Brattleboro Reformer. “It was terrifying.”
Dietl’s partner heard her yell, ran out with a heavy-duty flashlight, and pounded the bear in the head with it. The sow retreated just long enough for the couple to scramble back into their condo with the bear in hot pursuit. They managed to close the door and quickly called 911. VFW wardens and Winhall Police and Rescue responded to the call, arriving shortly thereafter.
The wardens unsuccessfully searched the neighborhood for the dog and the bears until 1:20 a.m. Bodhi returned home safely the next morning. On Thursday, the wardens continued their search, finding that the property had a number of bear magnets—a bird feeder, a damaged dumpster, and decorative pumpkins. Dietl sustained a non-life-threatening scalp wound that required 15 staples, as well as injuries to her hand, face, and side. Attempts to locate the mother bear and her cub are ongoing.
“Before letting pets out at night, I would urge Vermonters to light their yards and make plenty of noise to give wildlife in the area time to move on,” game warden Kyle Isherwood said in a release. “Along with securing food that could attract wildlife into a developed area, steps like this are important for the safety of people and wildlife.”
This is the second bear attack in Vermont in less than three months. A previous incident involved a 61-year-old woman, a Jack Russel terrier, and a black bear sow with cubs. “Increasingly bold and high-risk behavior from bears is due to Vermonters’ failure to take the proactive steps needed for safely coexisting alongside a healthy black bear population,” VFW Black Bear Project Leader Jaclyn Comeau said. “This failure puts both people and bears in danger.”
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