Denise Haldeman doesn’t blame the bear that attacked her in the darkness outside her Lycoming County, PA, home May 12, injuring her and killing her dog.
“It wasn’t her fault,” Haldeman, 44, said Wednesday. “It was the mistakes I made. She was just being a mother.”
Officials say they believe the bear that injured Haldeman is the one they trapped outside Haldeman’s home last week. The bear and three cubs had been seen in the area in the days before the encounter. Haldeman said she should not have gone out after dark to bring in three bird feeders, and she should have had Panda, her 12-year-old half Labrador retriever-half Australian herd dog, on a leash.
Haldeman said she went outside shortly after 9 p.m. to get the feeders, and Panda “tore into the yard.” She thought he was chasing a neighbor’s dog that at times runs loose. The next thing Haldeman knew, a bear was standing on its hind legs clicking its teeth at her. She turned to flee into the house, and the bear hit her from behind, knocking her face down on the patio.
“I was lying on my stomach,” she said. “I was praying. The next thing I knew, the bear was standing on me, biting my head. I had a paw print bruise on the back of the leg.”
The bear left without injuring her further, she said. Her daughter Liz, 13, was in the family room, and “I yelled to her to go get daddy,” Haldeman said. Steve Haldeman was asleep, and by the time he got to the family room, Liz had let the dog into the house.
Steve Haldeman did not realize his wife was injured until he called to her and asked why she did not come in to help him with the dog, she said.
The dog could not be saved due to the severity of its injuries. Haldeman was taken to Williamsport Hospital with head, face, arm and leg injuries, but against the advice of medical personnel chose to go home after being treated in the emergency room. She is recovering from her wounds, but has returned to her part-time job at a doctor’s office. Her hair now is short because cutting it was the easiest way to treat her head wound.
After the attack, the state Game Commission put a trap in the yard to try to catch the sow that had been seen in the area. Haldeman said she had not slept well after the attack, and she heard the trap shut early May 21. She woke her husband, but they did not go out in the dark and the bear’s capture was not confirmed until daylight.
The trap is not designed to harm the bear; it essentially is a large cylinder that is baited to attract the animal. When it enters, the door closes, trapping it inside. While waiting for wildlife officers to arrive, Haldeman watched three cubs come down from a tree and play in the yard near the trap.
“It was amazing to watch,” she said. An officer later had to shake the cubs down from a tree. Haldeman said she touched the mother bear after it was tranquilized, and “it was so healing.” The Game Commission relocated the bears to the Elk-McKean counties area.
Haldeman said the incident has not deterred her from feeding the birds, although experts say it is not necessary at this time of year. But she now brings in the feeders before dark, she said.