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Game Wardens and Biologists Actively Investigating Bear Attack

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department game wardens and biologists are actively investigating a bear attack that occurred in Winhall, Vermont on the evening of November 2.

Sarah Dietl of Winhall, 43, reported that she was attacked by a bear in the yard of her condominium complex near Stratton Mountain Resort after letting her and her partner’s dog into the yard that evening.  

Dietl described that the dog, a Shih Tzu, treed a bear cub in the yard immediately upon leaving the house.  She described that the cub’s mother subsequently charged her, knocked her to the ground, and began to maul her.

Dietl’s partner reported that he heard Dietl yell for help and intervened.  He was able to separate Dietl from the bear and bring her inside the condominium.  

When the couple attempted to open the door for their dog, they described that the bear charged the door but that they were able to prevent it from entering.  The couple then called 911.  Winhall Police and Rescue responded first to the scene and game wardens from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department arrived at 10:05 pm.

Dietl was transported to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington late on November 2.  She was treated for non-life-threatening injuries to her head, hand, and side, and discharged in stable condition on November 3.

Game wardens searched the neighborhood for the bear, its cubs, and the couple’s dog after arriving at the scene.  They concluded their initial search at 1:20 am on November 3 without success. 

“Before letting pets out at night, I would urge Vermonters to light their yards and make plenty of noise to allow wildlife in the area time to move on,” said Game Warden Kyle Isherwood.  “Along with securing food that could attract wildlife into a developed area, steps like this are important for the safety of people and wildlife.”

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department game wardens and biologists returned to the scene at 10:00 am on November 3 to continue the investigation.  They learned that a bird feeder had been present outside the condominium complex until mid-October, that a bear-proof dumpster on the property was damaged and not being used properly, and that a female bear with cubs had been seen regularly in the area throughout the summer and fall.  They also found multiple decorative pumpkins outside of the complex that showed signs of having been fed on by bears.

“Bear attacks in Vermont are rare, but it is absolutely critical that Vermonters take every step to secure food sources that might attract bears into close proximity with people,” said Wildlife Biologist and Black Bear Project Leader Jaclyn Comeau.  “Increasingly bold and high-risk behavior from bears is due to Vermonters’ failure to take the proactive steps needed for safely coexisting alongside a healthy black bear population.  This failure puts both people and bears in danger.”

The couple’s dog was found uninjured.  Attempts by game wardens and biologists to locate the bear are ongoing.


Media Contact:  Lt. Jason Gravelle 802-498-8501