GIG HARBOR - The black bear that mauled a Gig Harbor woman Sunday eluded tracking dogs but officials are hopeful that two traps baited with doughnuts , maple syrup and vanilla might lure it out.
“Because it involved an attack on a human, we want to do everything we can to make sure the area is safe,” said Capt. Dan Brinson of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. “When (the bear) is located and captured, it likely will be humanely euthanized .”
Meanwhile, the woman who was attacked while walking her dog about 8:40 a.m. was reportedly in good spirits and recovering from surgery.
She suffered a severe laceration to her arm and several bite marks to the back of her body, Brinson said.
The dog, which witnesses described as a medium-size mutt, survived and was found pacing on the road where the woman was found by passersby.
They were walking in the 7300 block of 78th Avenue Northwest when the woman’s dog – which was not on a leash – ran off. She followed the dog into the brush and that’s when she encountered the bear.
“When she went to retrieve the dog, she got between the dog and the bear, and the bear attacked,” Brinson said.
The woman was able to get back to the road, where a couple driving by saw her and stopped to help.
She was sitting on a blanket in the backseat of their car when the family of Helen Barker drove by on their way to church.
As the first driver called 911, Barker retrieved another blanket and first-aid kit from her car to tend to the woman’s wounds.
“I was trying to keep her conscious,” Barker said, adding that the woman’s pants were shredded and blood could be seen seeping through her sweatshirt.
The woman is recovering at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Tacoma.
Neighbors said they’ve seen evidence of bears in the area – rifled trash cans or broken limbs on fruit trees – but they were surprised to hear about the attack.
“I’ve never been afraid of a bear because I think bears don’t want to be near us,” Barker said. “I think the bear was scared by the dog and that’s why he attacked, but it makes you think.”
Pierce County sheriff’s deputies closed roads in the area after the attack and asked residents to stay inside with their pets while officials searched for the bear.
Three Karelian bear dogs specifically trained to track bears and cougars were brought to the scene and spent about three hours searching the neighborhood and surrounding woods.
The mauling occurred in front of an undeveloped residential community that is surrounded by forested areas.
The dogs were unable to pick up a fresh scent of the bear, something Brinson said was hampered by an afternoon rain that likely washed away smells on the vegetation.
After the search was called off around 4:30 p.m., Fish and Wildlife officers set up two traps with a variety of doughnuts inside for bait.
“If we catch a bear right in that vicinity quickly, then that is very likely the bear,” Brinson said. “Then we can collect some evidence from it.”
A necropsy is expected to be done on the bear to determine whether it has any diseases that could affect the woman who was attacked.