On August 24, 2022

Game wardens and biologist respond to bear attack in Strafford

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department responded to a bear attack in Strafford on Aug. 20.

Susan Lee, 61, of Strafford, was treated at Gifford Medical Center for non-life-threatening injuries from the attack. She called 911 while being transported to the hospital by her neighbor. Game Warden Sergeant Jeffrey Whipple and Game Warden Kyle Isherwood responded.

Warden Isherwood interviewed Lee at the hospital. He advised her of the risk posed by rabies and collected her clothes from the attack as evidence.

Lee reported that she and her two dogs, a Jack Russell terrier and labradoodle, were walking trails on her Strafford property at the time of the attack. She stated that she had just recalled her dogs which had moved out of sight, when she heard a loud noise and realized a bear was charging her. Lee stated that she tripped on a stone wall as the bear charged her. She then felt pain on her upper left leg and realized the bear was on top of her and had bitten her.

Lee stated that her Jack Russell terrier intervened by barking at the bear, which got off her and appeared to focus on the dog. Lee stated that she got up and retreated down the trail, followed by her terrier and without further sighting of the bear.

Lee called 911 once she reached her residence and texted her neighbor for transportation to the hospital. She sustained a bite wound on her upper left leg and multiple scratches between two and nine inches long on both her sides.

Sgt. Whipple proceeded directly to the scene where he was joined by Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department Bear Biologist Jaclyn Comeau and Warden Isherwood to inspect the site where the attack occurred. They concluded that the bear was a female with cubs and that the attack was likely provoked when Lee and her dogs surprised the group. They also attempted to locate the bear but were unsuccessful.

“Bear attacks are extremely rare in Vermont,” said Comeau, adding that the department has records of only three prior bear attacks in the state. “However, at this time of year black bears are moving in family units and mothers will be protective of their cubs. If confronted by a bear it is essential to remain calm and back away slowly, and to fight back immediately if attacked.”

More guidance for navigating bear encounters can be found at vtfishandwildlife.com/learn-more/living-with-wildlife/living-with-black-bears.

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