Rare bear attack in Vermont foiled with flashlight: ‘It was terrifying’

A woman who stepped outside her condominium complex to let her dog out Wednesday night was attacked by a momma bear after the dog chased a cub up a tree.

Sarah Dietl, 43, sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries in what was an extremely rare bear attack in Vermont, according to the Brattleboro Reformer and VTDigger. The state had seen only four others in its history before this one, which was the second this year. 

The bear charged Dietl and knocked her down. It then had Dietl’s head in its jaws.

“She came running out of the dark,” Dietl told the Reformer. “She ran right to me. It was terrifying.”

Her partner, Robert Montuoro, heard her cries for help, stepped outside and smacked the bear in the head with the heavy duty flashlight he had been carrying. The bear let go of Dietl, who with Montuoro hurried inside.

But the bear hadn’t given up the fight.

“Once I pulled Sarah into the house, the bear charged the door,” Montouro told the Reformer. They slammed the door in its face and called 911. “I was…terrified.”

Dietl was taken to Southern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington where she received 15 staples in her scalp and was treated for a “mangled” hand, cuts to her face and a gash in her side. She was released Thursday.

The incident in Winhall occurred around 10 p.m. Game wardens searched nearly 3½ hours for the bear and its cubs, and the couple’s dog, before giving up; they resumed the next morning.

The dog, a Shih Tzu, came back home later Thursday morning and was unharmed.

‘Col. Justin Stedman, warden director for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, said bear encounters in Vermont this year are at ‘the highest level than we’ve ever had.’

‘Stedman said the increase in encounters is attributable to a number of factors, including an increase in both bear and human populations, a dearth of natural foods for bears this season because of a lack of rain, and the unseasonable temperatures throughout the region this fall.

‘He also said people need to do a better job securing food sources, such as dumpsters. Bears also have been spotted in this neighborhood eating ornamental pumpkins.

“’Bears are intelligent creatures,’ said Stedman. ‘They learn to associate people with food, because folks want to feed the birds, or they they want to put their garbage out. They don’t want to worry about it. These sort of things habituate bears to people, and it compounds over time.”

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