In what wildlife officials described as only the fifth bear-on-human attack in the last thirty years, a black bear attacked a 72-year-old man and his dog while they were hiking on timber company land in a semi-rural area near Creswell, Oregon on the afternoon of May 10. Both the man and the dog were injured, but managed to return home unaided, where the man called for medical assistance.
The man was treated and released for lacerations to his arm, torso and head, and punctures on his forearm. The dog was treated by a vet. Later that afternoon, the black bear believed to have been responsible was located by agents of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and shot and killed.
The dog spotted the bear and ran at it, barking. The bear knocked the dog down and was biting it when the man ran up, yelling and waving his arms in what proved to be a successful attempt to distract the bear. The man fought back as the bear clawed and bit him until the bear ran away.
The ODFW said the man did the right thing in trying to scare the bear away and then in fighting back, although they also advise the public that the ideal thing to do when encountering a bear is to back away slowly and quietly rather than approach.
Because ODFW suspects there may be other bears in the area, part of the estimated 25,000 to 30,000 bears in Oregon, the area surrounding the attack site will be closed to human activity, and trail cameras will be placed to look for more indications of bears.
ODFW offers hikers this advice to improve bear safety:
- Avoid trails marked with bear tracks or bear feces.
- Make noise when hiking to avoid taking a bear by surprise.
- Keep your dog on a leash. A loose dog may lead a bear back to you.
- Don’t hike after dark.
- Consider carrying bear spray in areas known to have bears.
- Above all, if you see a bear, adult or cub – leave.
John M. Burt