A Vermont woman was attacked and bitten by a mother bear. Her dog may have saved her life. – USA TODAY

A Vermont woman was able to escape a bear that attacked her, and her Jack Russell terrier may have been what prevented a fatal encounter. 
The incident happened on Aug. 20 in the town of Strafford, about 25 miles southeast of the capital city of Montpelier. The woman, 61-year-old Susan Lee, said she was on a walking trail on her property with her two dogs, a Jack Russell terrier and labradoodle, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department said in a news release.
Officials said Lee had recalled her dogs after they moved out of her sight when she heard a “loud noise,” only to realize a bear was charging her. As the bear got closer, Lee said she tripped on a stone wall. 
“She then felt pain on her upper left leg and realized the bear was on top of her and had bitten her,” officials said. 
After Lee was bitten, she said her Jack Russell terrier began to bark at the bear, which got the bear’s attention as it got off the woman. Lee told officials that she was able to get up after the bear focused on the dog and began to retreat down the trail. Her terrier followed her, and the labradoodle later returned home. The bear was not spotted again. 
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Lee was able to return to her home, where she had a neighbor transport her to a local hospital while she called 911 to report the incident.
Lee suffered a bite wound on her upper left leg and “multiple scratches” between two-to-nine inches long on both sides of her body, officials said. Her injuries were determined to be non-life threatening and was later released for the hospital.
The terrier was not injured, with Game Warden Sgt. Jeffrey Whipple telling USA TODAY the dog performed “some ninja moves” to avoid the bear.
Officials with the wildlife department met with Lee at the hospital to interview her, and they collected her clothes from the attack as evidence, warning of a possible exposure to rabies. 
The site where the attacked occurred was inspected by wildlife officials, where they determined the bear was an adult female with cubs. The attack was likely provoked when Lee and the dogs surprised the bear, with Whipple adding it was likely a “warning bite.”
Officials attempted to locate the bear but were unsuccessful. State bear biologist Jaclyn Comeau said in an email to USA TODAY the search for the bear was stopped because it was determined to be a defensive attack and it was “an isolated incident that shouldn’t pose an additional risk to public safety.”
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Whipple said there was a “possibility” it could have been much worse if the dog didn’t intervene.
“If I were to predict what would have happened if the dog wasn’t there, the bear may have caused more damage to her,” he said. “But most likely, when she was knocked down and was out of the fight, the bear would have got off of her and retreated.”
Black bears are the only bear species found in Vermont, according to the department, with a population near 6,000. The species are considered shy animals and are seldom seen by people, as they “prefer wild areas with fewer people.” The state permits licensed bear hunters to hunt the species from September through November.
Comeau said there have been only three recorded attacks in the state’s history.
“Bear attacks are extremely rare in Vermont,” Comeau said in a statement. “However, at this time of year black bears are moving in family units and mothers will be protective of their cubs. If confronted by a bear it is essential to remain calm and back away slowly, and to fight back immediately if attacked.”
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

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