When Sarah Dietl took her Shih Tzu outside Wednesday night, the 43-year-old resident of Winhall, Vermont, encountered something much larger. As she watched her dog, Bodie, chase a bear cub up a tree, Dietl saw the cub’s mother — which then mauled her hands, head and torso.
“She came running out of the dark. She ran right to me,” Dietl told the Brattleboro Reformer on Thursday about the adult bear. “It was terrifying.”
The bear swiped protectively at Dietl — who suffered cuts to her face, a gash in her side and a mangled hand — before her live-in partner Robert Montouro stepped in, per the Reformer. He managed to hit the bear with a flashlight, at which point it let go of Dietl.
“Once I pulled Sarah into the house, the bear charged the door,” Montouro told the outlet. “I was [expletive] terrified.”
Dietl was rushed to Bennington’s Southern Vermont Medical Center where she was treated for her injuries and released with 15 staples in her scalp. Her dog, which wardens searched for overnight, returned home uninjured the next morning.
Only four other bear attacks have been documented in Vermont, per VTDigger. However, Dietl’s mauling came a mere three months after another dog owner was attacked in nearby Strafford; the dog scared the bear away before it caused any serious injuries, according to Fox News.
Col. Justin Stedman, the warden director of Vermont’s Fish and Wildlife Department, told the Reformer that bear sightings are currently “at the highest level than we’ve ever had.” He attributed this to a lack of rainfall, warmer temperatures and increased human activity.
“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,” game warden Kyle Isherwood told the Reformer, adding that properly “securing food” is vital to preventing bear attacks.
Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources urges homeowners to keep their trash inside “until the morning of garbage pickup,” remove bird feeders or pet food and install electric fencing to protect animals like chickens — with 162 reports of bears attacking those animals occurring in 2020, per the Burlington Free Press.
Game wardens investigating last week’s attack found that a damaged bear-proof dumpster at the condo complex where Dietl lived hadn’t been repaired. They also learned locals had seen bears trying to eat pumpkins left out for Halloween. Dietl’s attacker has yet to be found.
“We really feel lucky to live where [we] live here in Vermont,” Montouro told the Reformer. “We build condos in places where bears used to live, and we’re kicking them out. It’s not their fault.”