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DNR hunts for bear accused of injuring W.Va. woman

It’s rare for a bear hunt to take place in the summer, but one is going on now in Monongalia County.

Wildlife and law enforcement officials are looking for a female bear accused of injuring an unidentified woman in the Mayfield Road area of Morgantown.

Paul Johansen, assistant wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources, said the bear was reported to be wearing orange ear tags that identified it as one of the agency’s “research bears.”

“We had been tracking the bear for some time as part of one of our research projects,” he explained. “We knew it was a sow, and that it had a couple of yearling cubs. It had been seen in the neighborhood before, but outside of occasionally getting into someone’s garbage it had never before had caused any trouble or been aggressive toward humans.”

He said the injured woman wasn’t aware the bears were nearby when she went outside to her car.

“She apparently was outside long enough that a motion-sensor light had gone out, and when she started toward the house, she apparently didn’t see one of the bear’s yearling cubs had moved between her and the front steps. She said she heard a growl behind her, and that the bear went toward her, knocked her down, swatted her on the head and bruised her side.

“When she yelled at the bear, it backed off.”

Johansen said the woman’s injuries included bruised ribs, a gouge on top of her head, several scratches and a twisted ankle — the latter reportedly suffered as she ran toward the house.

DNR officials have set out snares and culvert traps in an attempt to capture the bear, but so far haven’t succeeded. Johansen said that if an ongoing investigation confirms the woman’s story, the bear would be euthanized after its capture.

“In cases like this, we err on the side of caution,” he said. “We can’t tolerate bears that are aggressive toward humans. For us, the proper course of action is to capture the bear and euthanize it.”

He said the bear’s cubs, now more than a year old, were fully able to care for themselves and therefore would not suffer if the sow were killed.

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