LONG BEACH Long Beach-area resident Janet Herman was bitten at her home near the Sandridge Road-Sid Snyder Drive intersection early Friday in what authorities believe was an accidental encounter with a black bear. The womans Schnauzer dog, Buddy, was killed before Herman drove the bear away with a broom.
Mike Cenci, deputy chief of enforcement for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Friday night that Herman, in her 60s, was bitten at about 3 a.m. Friday and sought treatment at the Ocean Beach Hospital emergency room. It doesn't appear that 911 was ever called.
Cenci requested that Hermans name be withheld from publication Friday in order to preserve her privacy, but her daughter disclosed her identity in posting additional details on Facebook on Saturday morning.
According to Paula Herman-Wright, her mother suffered a bite to the stomach. The bite marks were consistent with the dentition of a black bear, Cenci said. Herman was released from the hospital Friday and is expected to make a full recovery.
Herman-Wright said her mom let the two dogs out to tend to their business. Buddy, the Schnauzer, encountered the bear in close quarters on the homes back porch and was mauled. Herman then grabbed her broom and was bitten as the bear made its escape, authorities believe. The dog died from wounds to its neck.
My Buddy lost his life protecting my mom... I thank God that although this happened, that it was fast and painless for Buddy, Herman-Wright said.
It bit and scratched its way through anything that stood between him and freedom, Cenci said of the bear. Cenci thinks the bear didnt go looking for trouble, but rather was eating garbage and reacted violently when surprised by Herman and her dogs. Black bears in Western Washington generally do not kill living prey, so the dog was likely killed as a defensive reaction rather than to eat.
Cenci said the WDFW was not notified of the incident until later Friday morning. He made a rapid highway trip between Olympia and Long Beach, summoning a Karelian bear dog and its handler from Tacoma to join wildlife officers at the scene. But there had been precipitation in the meantime and the dog was unable to identify a likely trail for the fleeing bear.
Cenci said that evidence including the overturned garbage container and deep claw marks on the porch shows that one or more bears are often in the area.
WDFW has placed two large culvert-type bear traps in the vicinity to see if they can capture the right bear. If caught, it will be euthanized.
Cenci said there isnt any indication that people in the immediate area of the incident have been feeding bears on purpose, but that there is much unsecured garbage to attract them. The presence of easy food has habituated the bears to being in dangerous proximity with humans, he said. For a bear to be that close to a porch light is not normal, Cenci said of the Sandridge attack scene.
The Long Beach Peninsula has been locked in a heated controversy since September over alleged bear-feeding by one or more residents, in violation of state law. The peninsula and the surrounding region of Pacific County host a thriving population of black bears. Some regard them as entirely benign and semi-domesticated, but WDFW has repeatedly warned of the likelihood of dangerous interactions like the one Friday morning.
This bear encounter, the first resulting in a human injury in the peninsula area in many years, is certain to reignite a storm of argument over how best to live in a place where wildlife and humans live in close and usually uneventful contact.