'Take extra precautions': Bear attack seriously injures dog, frightens owner

ByEdward DiOrio, CNNWire
Thursday, July 27, 2023
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Sarah Burnette has lived at her North Asheville residence for over 24 years.

In that time, she said she's had no negative run-ins with wildlife.

That changed last week, as an encounter with a bear left her dog injured and herself terrified.

"It was the most terrified I've ever been in my life," Burnette said. "People heard me screaming two or three blocks away."

Burnette was taking her terrier mix, Benji, outside one more time before bed. Suddenly, Benji started barking.

"The bear gave a growl, then he attacked Benji," Burnette said.

The attack left the 13-year-old pup with severe wounds which cost Burnette thousands of dollars after surgery.

"The vet told me the claw went in here and went underneath him and came out down here," Burnette said, showing where Benji was injured.

After pouncing on Benji, the bear made its way toward Burnette.

"(The bear) was standing right here," Burnette said. "And I was sitting with my back up against the wall right here. I didn't have anything but my shoes. So, I took one and threw it at him. I didn't hit him, but I threw it at him. He then took off into the woods."

Burnette was unharmed, but still frightened. A run-in like this is becoming more and more likely as the bear population grows.

"There's going to have to be some sort of management strategy that the wildlife research commission helps us in Western North Carolina," Western North Carolina Nature Center's Chris Gentile said. "We're seeing more and more bear activity in Western North Carolina. The bear population has grown over the past 10 years. Bears have just become a little bolder."

Burnette admittedly let her guard down. She said she hopes other pet owners don't become complacent like she did.

"Even if they've had good relationships with the bears in the past, it may not always be that way," she said. "So, everyone should take extra precautions."


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