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Woman attacked by bear behind home, bear still at large

By Staff | Jan 3, 2019

MUNCY – A Muncy Creek Township woman is in stable condition after being attacked by a bear behind her home last Wednesday evening, December 12.

Melinda Lebarron was home alone when she stepped out back to have a cigarette and let her dog out, according to Lucinda Yoder, Lebarron’s sister-in-law. During that time, a bear appeared from the other side of her house and attacked.

The black bear dragged Lebarron to the other side of her home, across the street, and into a thicket, where she was able to escape. Lebarron managed to crawl to her home and call a relative at about 6:35 p.m. to inform her of what had happened. Emergency services were called, and Lebarron was transported to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.

Lebarron was treated for multiple injuries including broken ribs, broken collar bone, multiple puncture wounds and partial scalping. She is currently resting in stable condition.

The bear is still at large, according to Mike College, state game warden. A trap has been set near Lebarron’s house, and a dog trained in tracking bears is being transported to the area to assist in the bear’s capture.

Lebarron survived the mauling of the bear by repeatedly punching the animal and crawling into a bush as her Chihuahua-mix distracted the attacker.

Melinda LeBarron has broken bones, cuts and bruises and multiple bites after the attack outside her home and remains She hospitalized in critical condition.

Her dog – fittingly named Bear – was also bitten several times and has a broken sternum and separated ribs.

“I’ll just put it this way – she’s very, very lucky to be alive,” said her son, Trent LeBarron, who described her as a tough person. “She was punching the bear and everything. Her right hand’s all swollen up from punching the bear.”

The attack began when she went outside with her dog around 6 p.m. When Bear the dog barked, Melinda LeBarron, a 51-year-old food prepper at a steakhouse restaurant, looked around to see what had startled the canine.

“The next thing she knew, she was on the ground getting slammed around,” said her son.

The black bear dragged Melinda about 80 yards (70 meters) through her yard, across a road, and into a thicket, while the dog tried to intervene, biting the black bear several times. Some of her clothes were ripped off in the process.

The attack left a trail of blood that relatives later followed.

“As she said in her own words, the bear wouldn’t show her no mercy at all,” Trent LeBarron said. “It wouldn’t stop.”

Eventually Melinda LeBarron went limp, and the bear took an interest in the dog, giving her a chance to climb into a small bush. She then threw a stick to distract the bear and finally made her way home to call a relative for help.

Bear the dog somehow got back into the home and was found whimpering beneath a bed.

“She’s stable now,” Trent LeBarron said. “She’s doing good, she’s actually doing very good. She has a long ways to go and a lot of lot of surgeries coming up.”

Before Melinda LeBarron was able to speak, she wrote on a pad to ask how her dog was doing.

“We asked her if Bear saved her life,” Trent LeBarron said. She nodded her head yes “so fast it was unreal.”

Game Commission spokesperson Travis Lau said his agency believes it is a sow with cubs and the attack occurred after the dog ran toward the bears.

Mike Levan, Melinda LeBarron’s neighbor and landlord, whose wife called 911, said a bear sow and four cubs were seen in the neighborhood all summer.

A trap has been set near Lebarron’s house, and a dog trained in tracking bears is assisting in the bear’s capture.

According to Mike Steingraber, game warden supervisor in the state, this attack is “highly unusual.” Bear attacks are not common in the area, and this is the only one to happen this year. When asked to elaborate, Steingraber points to human presence as a deterrent for attacks.

“Generally speaking, bears are more afraid of us than we are of them,” Steingraber said.

Concerning the game commission’s efforts to track down the bear, Steingraber assured the public that they are “doing everything in their power to locate the bear.”

They are going door-to-door in the area and informing local residents about the attack and educating them on measures they can take to deter bears from venturing on to their properties.

Game wardens would like to remind the public that it is unlawful to feed bears, and that items like garbage or birdseed left outside can attract bears near a home, the press release states.

“In canvasing the homes in the area, our officers are making sure residents are aware of the law that prohibits the feeding of bears, and otherwise doing what they can to ensure their safety. While black bear sightings are relatively common, and in most cases there’s no need to report seeing a bear, we are asking neighbors for the time being to report any black bears they see because we’re looking for the bear that caused this attack,” said David Mitchell, director of the game commission’s Northeast Region.

“Pennsylvania has a large bear population – about 20,000 animals. It’s not unusual for bears to occur in residential areas, and interactions between people and bears occur regularly, typically without incident,” said black bear biologist Mark Ternent.

The Game Commission’s Northcentral Region can be reached by phone at 570-398-4744.

“The Pennsylvania Game Commission extends its full concern and sympathy to the victim of this attack, and her family, as we continue to respond to the incident,” game commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said.