For the second time in less than three weeks, a black bear has attacked and killed a beloved pet right in their own backyard.
The Sparta police department reports that just after midnight on Thursday, Jan. 20, its dispatch office received a call from a township resident that a bear had attacked his dog earlier, at approximately 10 p.m. on Wednesday night, and that his dog had succumbed to his injuries.
Mr. Pierce of Layton Lane said he let his five-year-old Yorkie, Tommy, didn’t return when he was called after relieving himself in the backyard.
Mr. Pierce walked out back and observed bear tracks and blood in the snow, according to the police. He found his beloved dog laying mortally wounded by the edges of the woods.
He brought his dog to the animal hospital. The veterinarians were unable to save him because of the severity of his injuries. Mr. Pierce believed there were claw marks on the dog’s side that caused internal injury and ultimately death, according to the police.
Sparta Police Officer Taylor May responded to the Pierce residence and confirmed the presence of bear tracks and blood that led into the woods, police said. He was unable to locate any bear at that time, according to the police.
The New Jersey Fish and Game Department was notified and will do a follow-up investigation on this attack, said the police.
It is unknown at this time if it is the same bear that is responsible for the Jan. 4 bear attack, but it is in the same area that a bear may consider its range, police said.
In that case, an 81-year-old Echo Drive resident escaped an attack with head and leg injuries after her two dogs encountered two bears rummaging through the trash she had put out. One bear fled while the other bear fatally slammed the woman’s English springer spaniel.
Coyotes are also a danger to dogs, with veterinarians in Orange County, N.Y., warning of incidents.
Bears are active in winter
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says black bears are not true hibernators and may be active all year long. In winter they enter a state of dormancy called torpor, in which their heart rate and respiratory rate slow down and their body temperature drops, but not as much as in true hibernators like chipmunks or woodchucks.
They are still easily awakened and “may leave their dens on mild winter days in search of food,” according to the DEP. But wind chills drove temperatures down into the single digits at the time of Thursday’s attack.
Black bears without cubs are solitary animals and most active shortly before sunrise and again after sunset, according to the DEP. However, they may be active at any time of the day or night.
They are typically not aggressive animals and tend to be wary of people. Black bear/human encounters are most common when they are foraging for food in the spring and throughout the summer breeding season.
Problems between black bears and people can occur when black bears learn to associate people with food. Habituation to human food sources may embolden a black bear. Bears will also eat pet food, so avoid feeding pets outside.
Black bears may exhibit a number of expressions and actions in an attempt to intimidate. When agitated, a black bear may pop its jaws, utter a series of huffs, swat the ground, or stand on their hind legs, the DEP says. But predatory attacks can occur with little or no warning.
The DEP says that, to protect pets against black bears, bring them inside at night or secure them in a pen with an electric fence, and always walk your dog on a leash.