Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Man, Dog Injured In Bear Encounter

black_bear_mammalA 55-year-old Troy man and his dog suffered bite, scratch and puncture wounds after a run-in with a black bear in the southern Adirondacks Tuesday evening.

The bear incident took place at about 5 p.m. when the bear encountered the Troy’s man unleashed small dog in the Stewart’s Landing area of the Ferris Lake Wild Forest in the town of Stratford, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The man, Eric Spinner, was taken to a hospital in the Utica area to have his wounds treated. They are not considered life threatening.

The bear attacked the border terrier and then the dog owner after the man tried to separate the animals, according to the DEC. The encounter ended after the man struck the bear on the nose with a stick. After the attack, the man and his dog walked to Stewart Landing Road where a passing motorist picked them up and transported them to the end of the road. A second motorist arrived and helped to contact emergency services. An S&S Volunteer Ambulance Service, from Dolgeville, responded to the scene and took the man to a hospital in Utica. The dog was taken to a local veterinarian.

DEC environmental conservation officers, forest rangers and wildlife staff, with the assistance of trained bear dogs and their handlers, attempted to locate the bear Tuesday night. Based on the extensive search, DEC believes the bear has left the area and poses no continuing threat at this time. ECOs are continuing to investigate the incident.

Incidents with black bears are extremely rare. Bears generally fear humans and run away when sensing people. In some cases, bears do lose their fear of people if they have become habituated to human food. It’s not clear if that was the case in this instance.

Black bears are commonly spotted in places like the High Peaks, Old Forge, and some campgrounds. However, they don’t usually come in direct contact with people. The last known Adirondack bear incident took place in September 2013 when a woman used her pocket knife to stab a nuisance bear in the nose after it followed her while she was hiking on the Northville-Placid Trail in Indian Lake. She wasn’t injured.

The DEC recommends the following tips for people who encounter a bear:

  • Never approach, surround or corner a bear: Bears aggressively defend themselves when they feel threatened. Be especially cautious around cubs as mother bears are very protective.
  • Never run from a bear: stay calm, speak in a loud and calm voice, slowly back away and leave the area.
  • Use noise to scare away bears from your campsite: yell, clap or bang pots immediately upon sighting a bear near your campsite.
  • Do not throw your backpack or food bag at an approaching bear: Doing so will only encourage bears to approach and “bully” people to get food.

To report the feeding of bears or a bear encounter, contact the nearest Regional DEC Office. A list of regional offices can be found on DEC’s website.

 Submitted photo: Black bear.

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Mike Lynch is a staff writer and photographer for the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly news magazine with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues. Mike’s favorite outdoor activities include paddling, hiking, fishing and backcountry skiing. In 2011, he paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine. From 2007 until 2014, Mike worked as an outdoors writer and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake. Mike welcomes story ideas and can be reached at

22 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Glad they are alright. I assume the guy will be treated for rabies as a precaution. The dog should get a booster just in case.

    This time of year when wildlife are trying to raise their young is no time to have an unleashed dog in the woods. April through August I refrain from taking any of my dogs in the woods. Many people pretend to love nature and wildlife but then they harass it by bringing their pets into the woods. Even the most well behaved and trained dog can get into trouble.

  2. Walter F. Wouk says:

    Thank you for correctly headlining this story as an encounter instead of an attack.
    It is not unreasonable to think that this encounter would not have taken place if the dog was leashed.

  3. Dave says:

    Yep, I’d like to echo what Walter says about the headline and the language used.

    We have no idea what took place between the bear and that dog. But we do know the bear turned on the owner of the dog only after he joined the encounter.

    Describing this as an attack – especially an attack by the bear on the man – would be inaccurate and irresponsible. It is sensationalism.

    Thanks for getting it right, most other media accounts have not.

    • Bruce says:



      I’m sure the unleashed dog added to the fray, but don’t assume the bear was just minding its own business, and then attacked by the dog.

      Recent studies of bear attacks over the last 20 or 30 years have shown that lone male black bears will actually stalk humans for food. The article did not mention the sex of the bear, so we can’t assume it was an entirely chance encounter on the part of the bear.

      There were two verified stalking incidents in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park this year alone. Both were warded off by the people standing their ground, like the guy in the article.

      • dave says:

        This bear was described as a juvenile. It was chasing a 12 pound dog down a trail (the dog was a tenth of a mile up the trail and out of sight when the incident began), and the bear only turned on the owner after the owner attacked it. Literally. The guy grabbed the bear, pulled it off his dog, and punched it in the face.

        Pretty brave thing to do, and he likely saved his dog. But a predatory bear attack this was not.

        • Paul says:

          I wouldn’t let a 12 pound dog run around in the woods like that. Even an owl might try and nail a dog like that. The guy was trying to steal the bears food. If you are going to feed the bears you are going to run into trouble.

      • Paul says:

        If they mentioned the sex of the bear I don’t think that it would have been one that had gotten away. You can tell a sow by the fact that she is with one or two (or three) cubs but telling a lone bear’s sex requires closer examination.

  4. Tim-Brunswick says:

    “encounter”…”attack”…..Golly Gee Whiz let’s make sure we use the right label ! How about asking the man and his dog if they think they had an “encounter”??

    Can’t wait to see what “labels” will be bandied about when Cougars start munching down on the Family pets….


    • AG says:

      That’s the risk of wanting to enjoy the wilderness… In any event – as others noted – you should not have a dog unleashed this time of year. That’s just not sensible.

    • Paul says:

      It sounds like both are accurate. It sounds to me like the bear attacked the small animal (I would assume for an easy lunch). The part with the dog owner was an encounter (or maybe a human attack on a bear). Him trying to save his dog. Pretty crazy if you ask me. I like my dogs but I am not attacking and punching a bear for them.

  5. Bill Phillipy says:

    I believe in packing my .44 Mag when hiking in bear country. Yelling, smashing, pepper spray etc. are very cute ideas. However, having an effective back up is the way I have operated for 30 years. Bang Bang….encounter over.

    And what about the motorist who “transported the man to the end of the road”. Nice person to take him that far and then kick him out of the car with his injured dog. Can we possibly be too busy to fully assist someone in this situation? Time to re-examine our priorities.

  6. Mike says:

    Wow, so I’m just catching up on some of these posts, and it is disturbing that most of the initial responses have to do with the labeling of the “encounter” vs the “attack”. Really folks? That’s your biggest concern? A human being out for walk could have nearly lost his life, and thats what your worried about? Tim Brunswick has it right.

    • John Warren says:

      The human being was in no danger of losing his life. If he was, he would have never attacked the bear. If he had kept his dog leashed, the bear encounter would have never happened.

      • Hawthorn says:

        I agree with John. The takeaway here is that it is far, far better to avoid problems in the first place (whether it is an encounter or an attack) by keeping your dogs leashed when in the woods. I am always surprised by how many unleashed dogs there are on the trails. I hiked popular Blue Mt. recently and ran into many unleashed dogs running well ahead of their owners. They were all friendly, but what if the dog had spotted or sniffed a bear, a skunk, or a porcupine? Is your dog so well trained he won’t investigate?

        • Paul says:

          The other take away is do not punch a bear!

          • Phil Brown says:

            Paul, he escaped only after “punching” the bear. Actually, he hit it in the nose with a branch.

            • Paul says:

              Yes, that is a good point. I agree maybe hitting the bear was a good thing in this particular case. I thought about that when I saw my own comment. But as a general rule I would avoid hitting the bears.

              • Phil Brown says:

                If you are attacked by a black bear, the advice is to fight back, punching, kicking, hitting with a rock or stick, etc.

            • dave says:

              According to a report that quoted the guy…

              He punched the bear in an effort to get it off his dog. He also bear hugged it (his pun, not mine) as part of that effort.

              The bear then turned and attacked him.

              It was then, in an effort to save himself, that he hit the bear with a branch.

      • Phil Brown says:

        John, you may change your views after reading the fuller story, which we will share with the Almanack soon. Basically, though, the bear attacked the man when he slipped while trying to pick up his dog. He lost a lot of blood, lost the trail on the way back to his car, and feared he would pass out before reaching the road. The bear mauled him severely. He escaped only after hitting it in the nose with a branch. If he had not done that, who knows what would have happened.

        • Paul says:

          It will be interesting to see the story. It sounds to me like he was basically trying to take from the bear what it might have seen as an easy lunch! Certainly not an unprovoked attack. Given all the wounds you describe I hope he got some rabies shots just in case. Bear rabies is uncommon but not unheard of.

        • John Warren says:

          I’m sorry to hear the man and his dog were injured. However, as long as the story remains that the dog was unleashed and the man got between the bear and the dog, my mind is not changed.

          The first rule of wildlife is keep your distance. The first rule of dogs is keep them under control.

          Don’t blame wildlife for acting like wildlife if you do neither of those things.

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