‘Standoff’ near Tahoe leaves bear dead, man bitten

A female black bear sits in a tree near Lake Tahoe, Calif. 

A female black bear sits in a tree near Lake Tahoe, Calif. 

San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst N/San Francisco Chronicle via Gett

In an extremely rare incident, a California man was reportedly bitten numerous times by a black bear in Sierra County Friday.

The Calpine resident told authorities he let his dog outside to use the bathroom as usual on Saturday evening, but noticed the dog bolted. When he went outside to find him, a bear emerged from his neighbor’s yard and “charged at him,” the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release

The bear then reportedly bit the man on the hand, wrist and leg. The man escaped back into his home, retrieved a shotgun and shot the black bear while the animal was in a standoff with his dog. The shotgun blast seriously wounded the bear. 

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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife subsequently located and euthanized the bear, then took the remains to Sacramento to test for rabies. The man is recovering after receiving treatment for his injuries in a hospital.

“The bear had been shot at close range, was bleeding heavily and mortally wounded,” Capt. Patrick Foy at Fish and Wildlife told SFGATE over the phone Wednesday. “The decision was made to euthanize it through compassion.” Foy said a wildlife officer killed the bear on-site with a patrol rifle. 

It’s an exceedingly unusual example of a bear, outside, charging at and repeatedly biting a human. The sheriff’s statement did not detail if the bear had cubs or if the dog was acting aggressively. 

“Very, very, very rare. I’ve never heard of that happening,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of the Bear League, a wildlife rescue organization in Tahoe. “The only time I heard of such a thing in 30 years of dealing with bears in California would be if the bear was in an enclosed area with no way out, and the person was blocking its escape route. Then they may push a person out of the way and maybe scratch them.”

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Foy and Bryant agreed that bears attacking dogs is also rare. Bryant said it has happened on occasion, if a dog has a hold of a mother bear’s cub.

Black bears — the only bear species still in California — have never killed a human in the wild in the state’s recorded history. “They don’t pick fights,” Bryant said.

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