By Joe Beck
The bear that attacked a man in Hardy County, West Virginia, will be put down if game managers can trap it, a state expert on black bears said Friday.
Colin Carpenter, West Virginia's black bear project leader with the state Division of Natural Resources, said the female bear's cubs will also be put down if captured, although they can likely survive without their mother.
Carpenter said game officials are following normal recommendations and guidelines in their response to the bear attack.
"Any bear that makes contact with humans, we make an attempt to capture that bear and put it down," Carpenter said.
Carpenter said traps will be set for the next several nights in the area where the bear attacked Steven Krichbaum, 59, of Staunton on Thursday. The attack left Krichbaum hospitalized in Winchester. Krichbaum's dog was also seriously injured when it attacked the bear.
A written statement Friday from Jamie Sajecki, Virginia's black bear project leader with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said the attack began when Krichbaum's unleashed dog chased after and began attacking the bear's cubs.
Sajecki said the dog disturbed a family of bears while in the George Washington National Forest with Krichbaum.
Krichbaum remained hospitalized at Winchester Medical Center as of Friday afternoon.
Witnesses who treated his injuries when he drove into Richard's Fruit Market near Middletown on Thursday reported Krichbaum was bleeding heavily from wounds to his forearm and his upper leg.
Sajecki said the female bear, also known as a sow, charged Krichbaum in an attempt to protect her cubs. The dog, reported by witnesses to be a yellow Labrador mix, then attacked the bear.
"When the dog began to attack the sow, it gave (Krichbaum) a chance to find a rock and hit the bear in order to scare her off," Sajecki said in a news release. "(Krichbaum) and the dog suffered severe injuries from the bear."
Sajecki said in an interview that her information came from a biologist in her agency who had interviewed Krichbaum in the hospital. Sajecki described the attack as "extremely rare."
Sajecki said she was unaware of anybody killed by a bear in Virginia, although some hunters have reported minor injuries. Such incidents commonly involve a dog scrapping with a bear and a hunter trying to get between them, Sajecki said.
"So far, we've been real lucky," Sajecki said of the absence of serious injuries in human-bear encounters. "It's a testament to the true nature of these animals. They really don't want to have a confrontation with people."
Sajecki said she believed the bear targeted Krichbaum because seeing the dog chasing her cubs was highly stressful to her.
In most such incidents, a sow will try to send her cubs up a tree for safety, but the bear that attacked Krichbaum did not have a chance to do so, Sajecki said.
Carpenter said he was unsure whether West Virginia game officials will manage to trap the bear or her cubs. He said the bear has not been linked to any other attacks on humans and has no markings that would distinguish it from any other female bear.
Carpenter said he believed the cubs will be "fine on their own" if their mother is captured but they remain at large. He said a plentiful supply of acorns, cherries and other fruits will give them a good chance of survival.
Sajecki said Virginia does not take action against bears if they are provoked into attacking, which appears to be the case in Thursday's incident.
"Because the dog precipitated this event, we wouldn't necessarily put a bear down in that situation because she was out in her habitat where she should have been," Sajecki said. "She was doing what she needed to do."
Sajecki said she hopes people will not overreact when they see one or more of Virginia's 17,000 black bears.
"In most cases, when people and bears accidentally meet, it usually ends with people going one way and the bear the other," Sajecki said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org