Late last week, black bears in Connecticut and Maine attacked dogs on their home turfs, leaving the owners in both states injured. The dog owners fiercely defended their canine companions, despite coming face-to-face with the bears.
Maine woman punches bear to save dog
Around 11:30 a.m. on the last day of June, Lynn Kelly was working in her garden. Kelly, 64, resides in Porter, Maine, near the New Hampshire border. Kelly heard her dog begin to bark before he hurriedly headed into the woods.
According to CNN affiliate WMUR, Kelly said, “I noticed that my dog ran off of the deck and straight down in front of the house down the hill. And the next thing I knew, I heard him scream, squealing.”
Kelly rose up to investigate what had her dog on the hunt. When her pooch came running out of the wooded area, a bear followed. Kelly shared, “the bear looked at me, and I looked at the bear. I think we both scared each other.”
In what can only be described as quick thinking, Kelly made herself appear as big and tall as possible. According to a press release issued by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, “Kelly confronted the bear head on, and when the bear stood up, she stood up as tall as she could, then punched the bear in the nose.”
Kelly, unfortunately, did sustain an injury as a result of her brave actions. As reported by USA Today, “the animal bit her right hand and punctured her wrist before immediately releasing her wrist and running back into the woods.”
Resultantly, Kelly called for an ambulance and was taken to nearby Memorial Hospital in North Conway. Staff there treated her for the four puncture wounds. Luckily, her dog was unharmed.
The wildlife department labeled this incident as a “provoked attack,” but is assuring the public that the bear has not been seen since. Officials further informed community members that “[t]he department has set two live-capture culvert-style traps to try and capture the bear alive.”
Mother bear attacks Connecticut man and dog
A day later in Litchfield, Connecticut, a similar incident played out with a man and his family dog, Cooper. Dave Monscshein and his wife Andrea were enjoying a Saturday morning spent sitting on the porch with Cooper. It would later be discovered that a black bear was nearby investigating a neighbor’s bird feeder.
The dog must have gotten a whiff of the bear’s scent. According to Andrea Monscshein, who spoke with FOX61, “Cooper went after the bear and attacked the bear. It wasn’t the bear attacking Cooper. It was Cooper attacking the bear.”
Her husband sprang into action. Andrea recounted how Dave tried to separate the dog and bear from one another. Monscshein shared, “Dave went flying around the house to just save the dog because the bear started attacking the dog once he attacked her.”
A desperate back-and-forth ensued between the bear and her husband. According to Mrs. Monscshein, “Somehow, he got the bear off Cooper, and he was like, kind of behind a tree trying to protect himself because [the bear] was trying to protect herself and scratched Dave up, she didn’t bite by Dave at all.”
Mr. Monscshein sustained several injuries in his scuffle with the bear. FOX61 reports he was treated at a local hospital for “multiple scratches, a puncture wound to the torso and possible fractures in his hand.” He is expected to make a full recovery.
His wife, Andrea, reports that after the tussle had concluded, her husband walked past the animal without further incident. “He said he walked right by the bear, and it just looked at him, there was no aggression at all.”
Andrea recalled she had seen the mother bear with her cubs earlier that week. Given the bear’s demeanor, Monscshein concluded the bear “really wasn’t out to hurt anybody. She was just trying to protect herself when Cooper attacked her.”
Cooper also sustained injuries in the attack. He was taken to a nearby veterinary hospital where he underwent surgery. He is now recovering at home and also expected to make a complete recovery.
Wildlife response to bears in both states
Maine is home to between 24,000 to 36,000 black bears. CNN recently shared advice from Maine’s wildlife department on preventing bear attacks. “Bear-related calls tend to increase during the spring and summer, when bears destroy bird feeders or get into people’s garbage. Most conflicts with bears can be avoided by ‘removing common food attractants around homes.’”
In Connecticut, wildlife officials cite the same sources — bird food and trash cans — as bear attractants. The biggest difference there is a new law which allows a homeowner to take lethal action against a bear if it believes the animal to be endangering the life of themselves, a member of their family, or a household pet.
State Senator Stephen Harding, a Republican lawmaker representing the Brookfield community, spoke with WFSB about the bear self-defense law. The Senator said, “I think this is a clear first step, at least to my constituents, if you are in a situation where a bear is threatening your safety, family safety, pet safety, it makes it clear in the law, unquestionably, that you are able to use lethal force in those situations.”
What to do if a bear attacks your dog
No one wants to come up against a bear, but — as the stories of Lynn Kelly and Dave Monscshein prove — it may be unavoidable. Reducing potential bear attractants is the first step in preventing a potentially unfriendly visitor from trolling your yard. Since bears can run around 30 miles per hour, it’s important to remain calm and prevent them from viewing you as prey to chase. Here are other steps to take to minimize the likelihood of bears attacking you and your dog:
- Remove potential food sources — including bird seed and accessible garbage — from your yard, especially if a bear has been seen in your community.
- Proceed with caution if you encounter a bear while with your dog. Remain calm. Avoid direct eye contact. If you are in the bear’s field of vision, do not turn around. Slowly step back while facing the bear, increasing your distance from the animal. Once you have achieved a safe distance, promptly leave the area and get to safety.
- Do not corner, provoke, or agitate a bear. Do not escalate the situation.
- If the bear has not seen you before you see him, turn around and leave the area quickly and quietly.
- When walking your dog, keep your pet on a leash or harness and close to you. Use a non-retractable leash, as running or quick movement by the dog could trigger the instinct of the bear to chase the pup and, by extension, you.
- Should a bear attack your dog, experts advise not getting between the two.
- If your area is prone to bear sightings, turn on outside lights before letting your dog out to potty. Do a quick scan of the area to ensure it appears safe before opening the door. Keep relief trips short and encourage your pooch to come back indoors quickly after doing his business.
Other bear attacks this year
These bear attacks in Maine and Connecticut weren’t the first where dogs or their owners have had to face off with a much larger foe. Earlier this year, another Connecticut dog — a Great Pyrenees — attempted to befriend a black bear in his yard. In April, a woman in Avon, Connecticut, was attacked when she was out walking her pooch.
We would much rather report on dogs that look like bears — or even like teddy bears, such as a Schnoodle or Bichon Frise — than on pups that go face-to-face with these potential predators. So, take our advice and stay safe out there!