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Bear Scuffles with Dog
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it was a pet Great Pyrenees that tangled with a bear this week in East Fork, but Great Pyrenees are often tasked with the job of protecting sheep herds from bear attacks.
   
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

A Great Pyrenees dog suffered multiple bite puncture wounds after a scuffle this week with a black bear in a residential area of East Fork south of Ketchum.

The incident occurred on Friday, July 22, a woman was walking her Great Pyrenees near her home when she and the dog encountered a black bear at close proximity. The woman estimated the bear to be about 120 pounds—the same size as her dog.

The woman immediately began to walk backwards while talking to the bear. But her dog, who was off-trail, came back and the bear engaged with the dog. The dog was treated by a local veterinarian and is currently recovering from its wounds at home.

The bear vacated the area and it is unknown if it suffered any injuries. Residents in the neighborhood have reported seeing a bear and cubs in the area.

Idaho Fish and Game officers said the incident did not appear to be the result of unsecured garbage in the neighborhoods but, rather, a bear living in its natural habitat in close proximity to a rural residential development. Consequently, officers will make no effort to trap the bear but are advising residents to be vigilant to avoid surprise encounters.

Often, even pets who adhere to voice control sometimes follow their natural instincts to pursue other animals when they encounter wildlife, noted Terry Thompson, communications officer for Idaho Fish and Game.

“When a bear or any wildlife has direct contact with an unleashed pet in wildlands, we tend to not take management actions against wildlife,” said Mike McDonald, Regional Wildlife manager, “in many situations, wildlife and pets, especially dogs, don’t mix, and can actually make an encounter rise to an attack or fight between the two. Dog owners should be aware that they are responsible for their pets and their actions when recreating on public land.”

Earlier this month a black bear lost its life after Fish and Game officials tranquilized it and it fell from a tree in the Warm Springs area of Ketchum. There had been a couple reports of an aggressive bear in the area pursuing food in residents’ garbage.

Anther aggressive bear damaged camping gear near the North Fork campground seven miles north of Ketchum after becoming food conditioned.

Mark Zila, who is spending time in Sun Valley this summer, said Wood River Valley residents need to take a lesson from Mammoth Lake residents when it comes to bears.

The town has mandatory bearproof trash cans, and residents use such things as carabiners to secure them, he said. Campgrounds have bearproof lockers for people to stash their food coolers when they’re not in use.

“We don’t keep toothpaste in tents. And we’ve learned that you don’t even keep a gum wrapper in a car as bears will smell it and smash a window,” he said.

Years ago, the town of 8,000 people in California’s Eastern Sierras hired Steve Searles, a former surfer and construction worker, to kill problem bears. But Searles became known as the bear whisperer of Mammoth Lakes and a star on the Animal Planet TV show as he began using nonlethal methods, such as shouting, setting off firecrackers and hazing bears with shotgun-propelled bean bags to deter them from problem behavior.

For the most part, bears now nap on golf greens and occasionally frequent ski lifts, but they keep their distance from the 1.5 million tourists who visit the area each year.

“I feel the blame is going the wrong direction here,” Zila said. “They’re being bears. People are the problem. Our town loves its bear. We’ve educated them so people so we can co-exist. We’re stoked to see them go through our yards.

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