PHOENIX – A bear attacked and injured a 74-year-old Arizona woman camping east of Payson in northern Arizona on Thursday, and now hounds and men are tracking the animal to put it down.
The Apache Junction woman had minor bruises and a cut to her face after the black bear ripped a hole in the tent where she, her husband and dog had been sleeping at a campground in the Tonto National Forest, said Jim Paxon, a spokesman with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The couple was able to scare off the large adult bear by making a lot of commotion.
"They are very, very lucky," Paxon said. "Anytime a bear rips through a tent and enters it with humans in it, that's a pretty big threat."
The woman was treated at Payson Regional Medical Center, including getting a staple for the cut to her face, and was back at home by Thursday afternoon. She had to be sedated because of the traumatizing experience, Paxon said.
The couple's names were not released, and Paxon said they did not want to speak to reporters Thursday.
He said the black bear will be euthanized once hounds and wildlife officials track it down because the attack was "too close for comfort."
"The bear poses a threat to public safety," he said. "We can't take any chances."
Paxon said the woman and her husband are avid campers and did everything right, including locking up all their food and cookware in the cab of their pickup truck and not having any food in the tent.
He cited the long-term Arizona drought as a possible reason for the attack, adding there is "not much for these bears to eat so they're looking for a meal, and that's what this bear was doing."
Paxon said the bear recently was seen hanging around the campsite's trash bins and wildlife officials had been distributing pamphlets warning campers.
Just hours before the early-morning attack, the Ponderosa Campground host spotted the bear and chased it until it ran away, Paxon said.
The campground was evacuated after the attack and now will be closed until Aug. 31 as a precaution.
Only seven bear attacks have been documented in Arizona since 1990, including Thursday's, according to Game and Fish.
Last year on June 28, 61-year-old Lana Hollingsworth died after being attacked by a black bear while walking her dog outside her vacation home in Pinetop in eastern Arizona.
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