A family pet wreaked a little extra havoc on his human over the weekend when he took off after a 250-pound black bear in the yard, wildlife officials in North Carolina said.
When the unlikely pair began to fight, senior officer Jared Thompson with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission told McClatchy news group the homeowner was in hot pursuit trying to make noise and scare the wild animal off.
But it was a mama bear.
“With her cub, that mother is going to be on the defensive,” Thompson said. “(The homeowner) did everything that he was supposed to do. In a different circumstance, it probably would have worked.”
According to officials, the incident occurred around sunset on Saturday when Kent Adams and his Great Dane — who was off leash — were getting ready to leave the house, according to officials.
Near the wood line, a black bear and her cub were crossing through the yard.
“The dog either heard or smelled the bear because they couldn’t see it,” Thompson said. “They were inside the garage at the time.”
When he reached the bear, Thompson said she acted on instinct to protect her cub.
The dog is very territorial and not afraid of other animals, Adams told McClatchy news group in an email Friday. He initially thought the Great Dane had taken off after a hunting dog, which frequently get lost in the area during bear hunting season, he said.
“It wasn’t until I was 20 feet away from the fight that I saw a bear cub running across the road and then I dreaded what I was coming upon,” he said. “At that point, I was committed and did what I’ve read to do. I tried to make myself as big as possible by raising my hands and yelling.”
The dog was about as big as the bear, but she had an advantage — claws.
Adams’ arrival prompted her to disengage. She was momentarily “stunned,” he said, but started to pursue the Great Dane again, who had retreated to the garage.
Then she turned to Adams.
“Halfway up the hill, she paused, realizing I was still there, turned back around and charged at me with full claws extended and mouth opened,” he said. “She bit me very hard and I tumbled back to the ground all the while knowing that if I were on the ground I was even more vulnerable, so I got up as quickly as I could.”
The bite was reportedly on Adams’ left forearm about midway down.
He thought she might take a second run at him, but her focus returned to the Great Dane.
The dog squared up for another fight before the mama bear decided to retreat, eyeing Adams carefully as he made his way back up to the house. The cub was reportedly long gone.
“I watched her out of the side of my eye on my way back up the hill, fearful that if I turned my head directly toward her she would misinterpret that as challenging her,” he said.
Adams drove himself to the hospital where he was treated and released later that night, according to Thompson. The dog also received some medical attention and was released.
Wildlife officials who investigated the incident collected fur and blood from the scene in case they need to identify the bear in the future. But Thompson said they didn’t see any reason to track or euthanize her because she didn’t pose a threat to public safety.
Adams said he doesn’t blame either animal.
“She was very smart and she did everything correctly to protect her cub. I have the utmost respect for her and I know she isn’t a threat if she isn’t being threatened,” he said. “The bottom line is, she isn’t to blame and neither is my dog. Both were doing what they instinctually are programmed to do. He was protecting his home as he saw it and she was protecting her cub as she saw it.”
It was the second bear encounter that day after a nearby hunt went awry.
Citing wildlife officials, the Asheville Citizen Times reported a hunting party trapped a bear in a tree in Haywood County and shot it down.
But when the bear fell, it wasn’t dead.
Capt. Andrew Helton with the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission told the newspaper the bear came at a hunter on the ground and the pair “rolled off a slight cliff.” The 350-pound bear reportedly walked off and was later found dead in a creek.
Thompson said Wednesday that two bear encounters in one day is rare.
“Generally these bear versus humans encounters are uncommon,” he said. “When they do occur, it’s typically something like what happened in my case, where it was a pet versus a bear, or a bear getting into some garbage.”
Still, Thompson cautioned people to be respectful of them.
“They are wild animals,” he said.
He urges anyone who “cohabitates” with bears to take care of trash and any pet food or bird feeders that are outside so that they aren’t attracted to the home.
“If you do come in contact with a bear, whether you’re out hiking or hunting, make yourself known,” Thompson said. “You don’t want to startle the bear. Bears can be more afraid of you than you are of them. They’re generally not aggressive animals.”