CLAVERACK, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Bears have been expanding out of their core populations over the past few decades, as an increase in forest cover has meant a more suitable habitat. Bear attacks could become more prevalent—as one Columbia County woman learned this week when her pet donkey was attacked and mauled to death.

“It was a brutal horrible death,” said Laura-Ann Camissa. Camissa takes in unwanted donkeys to her home in Claverack, New York, and her pet donkey Lucy is the latest in bear tragedies across the state.

“Lucy was very petite and very endearing. She just drew everybody in, and she was like, she looked like a baby donkey because she was so small,” remembers Camissa. “Lucy was one of the specialist donkeys I’ve ever met in my life,” said 9-year-old Kira Friedman.

Camissa says it was around 11:30 Monday night when she last said her goodnights to her beloved animals. Lucy and her companion Ricky along with two other donkeys that were safe when she left their pen.

“She has the loudest bray of any of the donkeys. She was the smallest with the biggest mouth. And she was awesome. She was really a love. We will really miss her, and Ricky will really miss her a lot,” continued Camissa.

The bear returned Tuesday and Camissa’s husband sprang into action. “About two hours after we buried her the bear came back into the paddock and I caught him at I was in the house, and I caught him at out of the corner of my eye He was walking through my husband came out and chased him away He hopped over the fence”

Lucy was buried on the property in a final resting place not far from her pen. Camissa said this is the first time in over 30 years she has seen a bear, and she was doing all she thought she could to deter bears. “We were taking in bird feeders at night because we know that attracted bears. But I did not know that the seeds on the ground also attract bears we don’t have garbage pails or anything around so that has not been an issue for us. But we’re not feeding the birds anymore other than in the winter months since we’ve been advised,” said Camissa.

The DEC website has ways to keep your interactions with bears as safe as possible. With such suggestions as the following:

The DOs:

  • Use noise to scare bears away by yelling, clapping, or bang on pots.
  • Stay calm, walk slowly, and speak in a calm voice.
  • Leave slowly. Cautiously back away and leave the area.

The Do-nots:

  • Approach surrounds or corner bears. Bears will defend themselves aggressively when they feel threatened. Be very cautious around cubs. Mothers are extremely protective
  • Do not run from the bear. They may chase you.
  • Do not throw backpack or food bag at bear. This will encourage bears to bully people to get food. By teaching bears to approach humans for food, you are endangering yourself and others.

Camissa now has plans to protect her pets. “We are putting an electric fence on top of the current fence that we have that has served as well for 31 years but apparently not this year and we’re getting all kinds of camera security systems that ring to your phone,” says Camissa.

Friedman told NEWS 10 she has grown up with Lucy and loved her dearly, but she understands the circle of life. “I love animals of all kinds. Sometimes I get scared of bears, especially. But, also in my mind deep down I always think, well bears are a part of nature. So, I just go with it. And I live with it. I live in the country and that’s a part of life,” said Kira.

The love for Lucy is shared by neighbors, family, and friends and her memory will go on. “Lucy is awesome. I will never forget her. She and all the other ones, they’ll all miss her also. As much as I will,” said Friedman.

“But you know, I believe there’s a place for all animals in nature. But I don’t think there’s a place for bears who killed donkeys. So, it’s a tough choice,” said Camissa.