Clinic Stories

It's a Jungle Out There - Bears

People in New Jersey have mixed feelings about bears. For the most part bears mind their own business as long as that business includes raiding your trash cans. Occasionally they cross the line and come into someone's house or attack a pet. Rabbits and chickens seem to be favorites as they are usually cooped up and easy to grab. The dogs I have treated for bear wounds have a common history - the dog harasses the bear, the bear initially ignores the dog, then swats several times, and if the dog persists, the bear pins the dog down with both front feet and bites the abdomen. Dogs give up at that point and clear out as soon as the bear releases them. Injuries are from the claws and teeth. Included in this group are a Yorkie who went after a mother bear and her two cubs, and a Labrador whose main injuries where bruising of the head and eye from the bear repeatedly smacking him into a tree. Dog owners frequently say the same thing - “He just wouldn't leave the bear alone.”

One local bear hibernated under a deck and upon waking killed a 16 year old dog in the yard who happened to be named Bear.

While hiking in North Carolina north of the Smokey Mountains, I arrived at a shelter after dark. Two hikers were still awake and cautioned me not to go up a side trail for water because earlier in the evening, a bear ran off with a hiker's backpack. The pack was not recovered and the owner, a woman from Florida, said it contained her driver's license and car keys which complicated her return.

I once did emergency surgery on a Black Mouth Cur, a dog from Louisiana brought to New Jersey with a pack trained to work with bears. Although only around 50 lbs. they are fearless and can either tree a bear, herd a bear back to the handlers or chase a bear away, often for miles.

If bears make you uneasy, make sure your trash is inaccessible and convince your dog not to bark at them.

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