Conservationist Steven Krichbaum was recently viscously attacked by a black bear in the George Washington National Forest, WV while conducting research on turtles for his doctorate degree.
Krichbaum, 59, and his dog Henry, encountered a female bear and her two cubs while walking in the forest in Hardy County. Henry saw the cubs and decided to chase them. When the mother bear saw her cubs fleeing into the forest, she immediately thought they were in danger and was determined to protect them.
The bear did not see the dog at first, and went after Kichbaum instead. “The image I really remember is her biting my right thigh, and I’m kicking and screaming at her all this time, and then she bit my lower leg and then at some point she bit my left leg,” said Krichbaum.
Henry, a mixed breed labrador, cocker spaniel and border collie, tried to save his guardian by charging into the fray and distracting the bear’s attention away from Krichbaum. Unfortunately, within seconds the bear attacked the dog, biting him several times, but Henry did not back down and retaliated with a few bites of his own.
While the bear and Henry were in a scuffle, Krichbaum managed to get back on his feet and find a large chisel-shaped rock that he used as a weapon. When the bear finally let go of Henry and set her sights back on Krichbaum, she lowered her head down for a second, allowing him to swiftly give her a blow to the head.
“She got her head down,” Krichbaum said. “She’s real intent. That’s when I hit her really hard in this section of the head.” After he struck her, Krichbaum remembers the bear circling him for about thirty seconds, then wandering off into the forest. “I didn’t want to kill her,” Krichbaum added. “I wanted her to go away and stop biting me.” After the bear left, Krichbaum managed to get himself back in his car and drove across the border to a fruit market, and was from there taken to the Winchester Medical Center.
According to a report in The Winchester Star, Colin Carpenter, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ black bear project leader, said that the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) set traps for the bears on Friday, the day after the attack. So far they have not been captured. Carpenter said that West Virginia authorities plan to euthanize the bear and her cubs if they are captured.
Heidi Flynn of Wardensville, West Virginia, launched an online petition drive asking Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and West Virginia’s congressional delegation to revise the DNR’s policies and prevent wild animals from being euthanized – especially if they are in their own habitat. Krichbaum said he is “appalled” by the DNR’s effort to capture the bear and euthanize it. When told of the online petition that was started to protest attempts to capture and euthanize the bear, Krichbaum said he is more than willing to sign it. “I’m totally opposed to that,” Krichbaum.
When people venture into the wilderness they know they are taking a risk. The forest is the animal’s home, and it is natural that they want to protect it. Krichbaum said it is a risk he is willing to accept, and thinks that people are overreacting to the bear attack. “I don’t want to live in Disneyland,” Krichbaum said. “If you want to live in Disneyland, stay home.”
Jamie Sajecki, Virginia’s black bear project leader, said that in contrast to West Virginia, North Virginia does not take action against bears if they are provoked into attacking; which appeared to be the case since Henry went too close to the cubs.
“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 told the The Northern Virginia Daily newspaper. “She was doing what she needed to do.”
Although still suffering with severe injuries from the attack, both Krichbaum and Henry are improving. Hopefully, it is a happy ending for the mother bear and her cubs as well.
As of Wednesday morning, the petition posted on change.org had 3,780 supporters.
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