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Woman attacked by bear in Vermont escapes with help from her Jack Russell terrier

Nature: Black bears
Nature: Black bears 03:12

A woman said she escaped a bear attack in Vermont over the weekend after her Jack Russell terrier intervened, state wildlife authorities said Monday. The 61-year-old woman, who was bitten on the leg but is expected to survive, credited her dog with distracting the bear and allowing them to escape. 

The woman, identified as Susan Lee, told authorities that she was walking on a trail in Strafford with her terrier and labradoodle when she heard a "loud noise" and saw a bear running at her, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department said. Lee said she then tripped over a stone wall and the bear climbed on top of her, biting her leg. 

Lee said her terrier then began barking at the bear, which appeared to become distracted and stopped attacking her, according to the statement. She said she and her dogs were then able to escape back down the trail. 

Once she returned home, she was able to call 911 and text a neighbor who brought her to the hospital. She was treated for non-life threatening injuries, including the bite and several scratches between two and nine inches long on both sides of her body.

Authorities who visited the scene of the attack concluded that the bear was likely a mother with her cubs who was surprised by Lee and her dogs. Officials could not locate the bear. 

Vermont is estimated to have somewhere between 4,500 and 6,000 bears, according to a 2019 report from the Fish & Wildlife Department. But department bear biologist Jaclyn Comeau emphasized in the statement Monday that bear attacks are "extremely rare in Vermont," noting that there are only three other documented instances of such attacks in the state.  

She did caution, however, that black bears are traveling in family units during this part of the year and that mothers are extremely protective of their cubs. If a person is confronted by a black bear, she said, they should stay calm and retreat slowly — but fight back if they're attacked. 

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