WILMINGTON — A second dog was killed after being bitten by a bear.
Vermont State Game Warden Rich Watkin said a large bear approached a house on Ray Hill Road in Wilmington and tried to take garbage off the front porch on June 22 at about 10 p.m.
Two dogs inside the house began barking. The occupants of the home tried to get the bear to leave the property by yelling and banging on the windows.
When that didn't work, they opened the front door and both dogs ran towards the porch. They were unable to grab the smaller dog, a Cocker Spaniel, which was on a retractable leash; the bear bit before carrying it to woods near the house. Both dogs had single bite wounds. But Watkin still considers the events unusual.
The dog owner told Watkin the bear was with two cubs, about 50 pounds each. Watkin showed up at the home after the Wilmington Police Department. An officer also saw the three bears.
"I was unable to catch up with the bear," Watkin said, noting that flashlights were used during the search but it was too still dark. "When we returned back to the residence, we ended up looking for the dog. I found it maybe a few yards from the house. It had sustained a fatal bite wound."
Watkin said the occupants had been "very diligent" about disposing of their garbage; leaving it out was a "rare instance."
Like the first attack on May 31, the dog was not eaten or consumed by the bear. Watkin said he sees the second incident as a reactive response from the bear — "most likely a protective one" — for her cubs.
The second incident happened within a half-mile of the first one. It is unknown whether the same bear attacked both dogs.
Both bears were described as large, a term Watkin admitted is "ambiguous."
"But that's how it was described to me," he said. "It is very possible in the first incident, there were cubs. They don't always stick close to their mom and it's possible they were present and not just seen."
After the first incident, Watkin observed tracks for only one bear in the mud. He said he did not see cub tracks but they are a lot lighter and he's "not the best tracker in the world."
While dogs do go missing from time to time, Watkin is only aware of these two bear attacks happening within the last 10 years he's been game warden in the Deerfield Valley.
"People are afraid to walk their dogs," he said, making it clear that the dogs that had been attacked were not out on walks.
Dog owners are advised to use a leash and a bell when walking their dogs. Watkin said a bell can be bought for less than $5 and it will let animals that something is coming.
Residents should not keep garbage or bird feeders outside. If trash is kept outside, the container should be securely shut.
Berries are starting to show, Watkin said. That usually means a decrease in bear complaints.
"We shouldn't have to rely on this," Watkin said. "I think it's because bears don't really come into dwellings through desire. I think they do it out of a drive because they're hungry. I think they do it reluctantly. Once they get access to abundant natural food sources, their need to come in is essentially mitigated by the natural food source."
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.