Earlier this week, Melinda Lebarron was attacked outside of her home after officials believe she went to retrieve her dog which had started running toward a black bear.
According to Fox 17 News, the Pennsylvania Game Commission now believes the bear may have had cubs with it and felt compelled to attack in order to protect its young when it noticed the dog and woman running in its direction.
A team of tracking dogs have combed the surrounding area in an attempt to find the black bear that attacked and dragged the 51-year-old more than 80 yards away from her home. The Game Commission has also set several live traps in place near her home in case the bear returns.
Local authorities went door to door in the area following the attack to let neighbors know what had happened and to provide them with important information on how they could keep bears from coming onto their property.
Black bear attacks are extremely rare according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Typically, they only occur when people make the mistake of feeding a bear or they get to close to the bear and scare it. Anyone who comes in contact with a bear is urged to remain calm, back away slowly, and not interact with the bear.
At this time, the officials do not believe anyone else is at risk of being attacked by this black bear. They do, however, plan to euthanize the bear if it is located and captured.
Penn Live reports one aspect of the attack that has people a bit puzzled is how the attack happened in the first place as black bears are believed to be in hibernation during this time of the year.
The outlet clarifies that while it is true that there are roughly 20,000 black bears currently hibernating, it is not unusual for some to continue to roam until the end of December or even the beginning of January.
Hibernation is something that happens on a schedule based on food availability, according to bear biologist Mark Ternent.
Typically, pregnant bears hibernate first, and the rest of the bear population follows behind. It, however, is common for a few bears to skip hibernation entirely.
While black bear attacks are rare both in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. – and exceptionally rare during hibernation season – they can happen at any time.
According to Fox 17 News, Lebarron is still in the hospital listed in critical condition following the attack with cuts, bruises, bite wounds, and broken bones. Her Chihuahua-mix dog that officials believe she was trying to save at the time of the attack also suffered a broken sternum, bite wounds, and separated ribs.