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Published August 06, 2011, 09:40 AM

Dog distracts charging bear from her master

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba woman said her 13-year-old mutt named Sassy saved her life this week during an encounter with a black bear at the family’s cottage in Whiteshell Provincial Park.

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba woman said her 13-year-old mutt named Sassy saved her life this week during an encounter with a black bear at the family’s cottage in Whiteshell Provincial Park.

Sandi Cross said Sassy distracted the aggressive, full-grown bear and its cub as she headed outside to hang her laundry.

Sassy was seriously wounded during the encounter and will likely require surgery where the bear bit into her neck and head.

Cross said the bear dragged Sassy as it was biting her.

Cross tried to drive the bear away by yelling and throwing her shoes at it.

Eventually, the bear released the dog, who was able to hobble back inside the cottage.

“It’s worrying, because I believe if Sassy had not run out there ,then that bear would have been on me,” Cross said.

The bear would only retreat to a nearby tree, even after Cross’s husband fired a few warning shots with a pellet gun.

“He stayed up there for 10 hours,” Cross said.

Ordinarily, the family takes precautions to deter bears by keeping the property garbage-free, but that morning Cross admitted they had left some garbage near the cottage.

The Crosses said they had hoped for a more aggressive response from Manitoba Conservation, who did not visit the property despite a phone call to notify them of the attack.

“Why they would choose to ignore a threatening black bear and its cub is bewildering,” said Brianna Cross, Sandi’s daughter.

“This black bear is currently in the Whiteshell Provincial Park attacking anything that threatens its food or offspring.”

Manitoba Conservation officers said several factors are considered when assessing the severity of a bear report, adding that destroying a bear is considered a final resort when all other options have been exhausted.

“The first thing we would do would be to ask people to get rid of attractants,” said provincial wildlife manager Kelly Leavesley, including garbage, bird feeders, pet food and food left on barbecue grills. “And in some cases, officers will come out and trap the bears and relocate them.

“But we find that usually, if you remove the attractant, the bear just goes away.”

Provincial officials said conservation officers have been busy responding to bear reports this season in the province’s popular cottage region in eastern Manitoba.

“Overall right now, it seems like we’re being kept pretty busy with bear complaints,” said Leavesley.

One factor concerning provincial officials is a lack of natural food sources — a poor berry crop has driven bears to seek food from inhabited areas.

“When the berries dry up, you tend to see more bears,” said Leavesley. “I wouldn’t consider this a real problem year yet.”

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