WINHALL, Vt. (NEWS10) — A bear attacked a woman in Winhall on Wednesday, according to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. An earlier release on the incident incorrectly identified the town where the attack took place as Stratton, officials said.
Sarah Dietl, 43, is recovering at home after sustaining injuries that were not life-threatening. Dietl let her dog outside at her condominium complex Wednesday evening, and the dog chased a bear cub up a tree, according to an updated release from the department.
The cub’s mother then charged Dietl, knocked her to the ground, and “began to maul her,” Dietl recalled. When Dietl cried for help, her partner sprang into action and successfully got her away from the bear, bringing her inside. The couple opened the door for their dog, but the bear charged the door, preventing the dog from entering.
The couple then called 911. Winhall Police and Rescue responded first to the scene and game wardens from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department arrived at about 10 p.m.
Dietl was taken to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington late Wednesday night. She was treated for non-life-threatening injuries to her head, hand, and side, and discharged on Thursday.
Game wardens searched the neighborhood for the bear, its cubs, and the couple’s dog after arriving at the scene. They wrapped up their initial search shortly before 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning without success.
“Before letting pets out at night, I would urge Vermonters to light their yards and make plenty of noise to allow wildlife in the area time to move on,” said Game Warden Kyle Isherwood. “Along with securing food that could attract wildlife into a developed area, steps like this are important for the safety of people and wildlife.”
Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department game wardens and biologists returned to the scene at 10 a.m. on Thursday to continue their investigation. They learned that a bird feeder had been hung outside the condominium complex until mid-October, that a bear-proof dumpster on the property was damaged and not being used properly, and that the female bear with cubs had been seen regularly in the area throughout the summer and fall. They also found multiple decorative pumpkins outside of the complex that showed signs of having been fed on by bears.
“Bear attacks in Vermont are rare, but it is absolutely critical that Vermonters take every step to secure food sources that might attract bears into close proximity with people,” said Wildlife Biologist and Black Bear Project Leader Jaclyn Comeau. “Increasingly bold and high-risk behavior from bears is due to Vermonters’ failure to take the proactive steps needed for safely coexisting alongside a healthy black bear population. This failure puts both people and bears in danger.”
The couple’s dog was found uninjured. Game wardens and biologists are still trying to find the bear.