Young Woman Escapes Bear Attack in Amherst

Carly Hall said she was fortunate to survive her recent bear attack with only a few scrapes.

“I feel so lucky,” she said. “It all could have been so much worse.”

Hall, 17, of Belchertown, and three of her friends were on Tracey Circle in South Amherst to walk her family friend’s dog Saturday night when they came upon a black bear.

“The dog started going crazy,” Hall said. “We didn’t know what was going on.”

Hall was walking the dog as a favor for Janet Lambert of Tracey Circle, who was in New York City visiting family for the night.

After walking the Lambert’s dog, Luna, all the way around the block, Hall and her friends saw a bear in the neighbor’s yard across the street. “It just stood there,” Hall said. “We weren’t sure what to do.”

When the bear started coming toward them, Hall said, she and her friends ran in opposite directions. The bear followed Hall, who was still holding the dog on a leash.

When the bear got close, she let the leash go, and the frightened dog ran off.

The bear jumped behind her, Hall said, and scraped her back twice. “But just barely,” she said.

The bear, Hall said, stood about 4½ to 5 feet tall.

Hall jumped on top of a parked car and sat on the roof. The bear then followed the dog down the street.

Hall ran into the Lambert’s house and called her mother, Deb Hall, who called the Amherst police before taking her daughter to the emergency room at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware.

Hall said she also suffered two minor bruises on her shoulder.

“It was such a strange situation,” she said.

Amherst Police Sgt. Brian Johnson said they believe the bear that scratched Hall was a cub. When the police arrived at Tracey Circle, Johnson said, they found a bear up in a tree and then called the Massachusetts Environmental Police. They estimated the bear’s weight at 300 to 400 pounds.

The Environmental Police made the decision not to tranquilize the bear, Johnson said.

The bear was healthy and collared, said Lambert, who learned about the incident from her neighbors.

Eventually, Johnson said, the police saw that the bear had a cub with her.

“That changes everything,” Nick Shaw, also of Tracey Circle, said.

Shaw said he had heard a dog bark and a woman scream, followed by another loud noise. When he looked out his window, he said he saw a bear chasing a teenager down the road. “I’ve never seen a bear do that before,” he said. He said some residents in the neighborhood who have bird feeders have had bears in their yard in the past.

Elizabeth Weinman, who lives across the street from the Lamberts, said she heard some noise, but was watching a movie, so did not think much of it. “I didn’t know anything until the police arrived,” she said.

The police had spotlights on a tree in her backyard. Up in the tree was a black bear.

Weinman was very surprised. The neighborhood has had some wildlife, she said, such as rabbits or wild turkeys, “but not like this.”

Lambert said she saw a fox in her backyard once, and Hall said she has seen a lot of wildlife in Belchertown, including moose and a bear with a tracking collar.

Lambert said she heard that the two bears spent the remainder of the night in the tree, but were gone Sunday morning.

Johnson said this is the first incident he has heard of where a bear has scratched a human, but there are more and more sightings in residential areas, he said.

After the bear ran off, Hall said she and her friends asked neighbors if they had seen the Lambert’s dog. They found Luna on Shaw’s back deck, shaken up but not injured. The next day, Luna was doing fine.

Hall, a student at The Academy of Charlemont, turns 18 later this month, and plans to celebrate by tenting out in the backyard with friends, despite her recent encounter with the black bear.

“That was such an unusual situation,” Hall said. “We’ll be fine.”

(Originally appeared in the Hampshire Gazette.)

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