They tried to lure her with doughnuts, sunflower seeds, and other assorted baked goods, but the black bear that severely injured a Lycoming County, Pa., woman last week passed them up, lumbered on, and likely will never be caught.
Tracking dogs did pick up the scent of the bear that attacked Melinda Lebarron outside her home in Muncy Creek Township on Dec. 12, officials said, but were thwarted by a cliff face and had to turn back.
“It’s pretty difficult to find a specific bear, and at this point, it’s nearly impossible,” said Mike Steingraber, a game warden supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s North-central Region.
Steingraber said the two traps laid for the bear had been pulled.
According to the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, Lebarron suffered broken ribs, a broken collar bone, multiple puncture wounds, and partial scalping. The bear dragged her 88 yards into a thicket but she punched it and crawled back home. Lebarron’s son told the Inquirer and Daily News that she was unable to speak and that her injuries were “worse than people actually know.”
The Game Commission initially believed that Lebarron had been attacked while standing on her porch, smoking a cigarette, with her dog, a Chihuahua mix named, yes, Bear. That type of unprovoked attack by a black bear is rare anywhere in the United States.
“The initial story was extremely odd and unsettling. It didn’t make a lot of sense to us,” Steingraber said.
If that story was true and the bear was caught, it would have been euthanized.
Authorities later learned that the bear had cubs with her and that Lebarron’s dog had chased after one, prompting Lebarron to intervene. When bears attack, it’s often to protect cubs. Family members told reporters that the dog, which was also injured, had saved Lebarron. Officials believe the dog is the reason why the attack happened in the first place.
“Yes, we highly recommend you keep a dog on a leash and under control in areas where bears have been seen,” Steingraber said.
A bear with cubs, if caught or tracked down, would likely not have been euthanized, and Steingraber said the longer the traps stayed out, the higher the chances of catching the wrong bear. He said the bear involved is likely sleeping in a cave or preparing to.
“The last thing we want to do is randomly catch a bear and treat it like a bad guy,” he said.
Pennsylvania is home to approximately 20,000 black bears, distributed far and wide in the state. One showed up in the Wissahickon Creek in recent years. A man was allegedly killed by a black bear in Elk County in 1906, after he shot it.
Pennsylvania hunters killed more than 2,400 bears this season.
A GoFundMe page has been created for Lebarron and her dog.