A woman fiercely attacked by a black bear near the Priest Lake visitor center on July 4 had no time to use bear spray even if she’d have had it, her brother says.
“Sometimes things just go wrong,” said John Manlowe.
His sister, 60, who didn’t want her name used, was walking with her two miniature Australian shepherds on leash when the attack occurred, he said.
“Having controlled dogs is not necessarily protection from bears,” he said, noting several reports that the dogs were unleashed. “Even leashed dogs can set off a bear. She let the leashes go when the bear attacked.”
Wildlife experts say dogs, especially free-running dogs, can prompt a chase by a bear or wolf or even a deer or moose, and the dog may lure trouble to its owner.
In this case, the woman said she was blindsided by the black bear with no warning.
She was on a 2.5-mile nonmotorized loop trail in a system that’s popular with hikers and horse riders, said Manlowe, who has a summer cabin on the lake. “We hike it all the time,” he said.
“The bear came from behind, bit one dog, then attacked her, then attacked the other dog and then turned on her again after she’d gone down on the ground and tried to play dead.”
Most of the damage was done in the initial strike when she was still standing and the bear went for her head, he said. “The second time around she had her hands up on her head and the bear bit her on the back and side.”
The dogs ran off and the woman could hear the bear in the brush around her as she used her cell phone to call her brother for help.
Bear experts say it’s best to fight back against a black bear as opposed to a grizzly attack in which it’s best to play dead. But in this case, lying still worked for the woman.
The bear didn’t attack her again, but it didn’t leave the area possibly because of the dogs or a cub, so she stayed on the ground.
“I ran over a mile down the trail, grabbing the leash of one dog that was running up the trail, before I found my sister in a pool of blood,” Manlowe said.
“I saw the bear about 20 yards away. The bear charged at me. The dog pulled away and out of the collar, so I was yelling and swinging the leash with the collar on the end and hitting trees to make as much noise as I could. The bear went up a tree about 5 feet to get a better look at me.
“It wasn’t until my daughter caught up and we both yelled and screamed and waved our arms that the bear left.”
Manlowe’s sister still had her hands on her head as blood poured down her arm. “She was holding her ear on,” he said. “It was almost torn off.
“They air-lifted her to a hospital because of blood loss. She had a total of 97 stitches.”
Idaho Fish and Game officials who responded to the scene said they eventually found two tracks that indicated the bear had a cub.
“But we never saw a cub,” Manlowe said.