GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (ABC News) – A 5-year-old girl was bitten and nearly dragged into the woods by a bear in Colorado early Sunday before her screaming mother spooked the animal and caused it to release the child.
The child, identified by her father as Kimberly Cyr, had gone outside of her home in East Orchard Mesa in the predawn hours to investigate noises she believed were coming from a dog, her mother told authorities.
The mother heard screams about 2:30 a.m. outside her home, which is above the Colorado River Corridor in Grand Junction, and went outside to investigate, according to a news release by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
That’s when she saw a large black bear dragging Kimberly, according to the release. The mother screamed at the bear, which then let her daughter go, the release said.
Kimberly was initially rushed to St. Mary’s Medical Center with serious injuries, but was later upgraded to fair condition, according to CPW.
The girl underwent a nearly three-hour surgery to repair soft tissue injuries caused by the bear’s teeth, according to Dr. Charles Breaux, the pediatric surgeon at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction, Colorado. She has “hundreds” of stitches, but no fractures, Breaux said.
Duane Cyr, Kimberly’s father, told ABC News that Kimberly was with her mother in the hospital and would be fine.
Breaux said Kimberly has been the “calmest person in the room” all day.
Rebecca Ferrell, the public information officer for CPW, told ABC News that traps had been set for the bear. If the bear is captured, it will be put down and a necropsy will be done to determine what happened, she said.
Ferrell also said CPW and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were using hounds to locate the bear; the agencies suspended the search, however, because of the warm weather.
“They were here from 3 this morning until just an hour ago,” neighbor Kathy Harris told ABC News Sunday afternoon. “And they had dogs out here tracking it, but they didn’t pick up a scent, which is kind of odd I think because they had those dogs out here probably within a half hour [of the attack], evidently. That’s what they said. But they didn’t pick no scent up.”
Ferrell told ABC News that Kimberly surprised the bear, perhaps causing the bear to be frightened.
“It’s 2:30 in the morning, they’re not expecting people to be out and about” at that time, Ferrell said.
“We’ve seen their tracks. They go through at night usually,” neighbor Robert Helmer said. “And there’s been some bears sighted in the daytime here. … But usually they come around after dark.”
Ferrell also told ABC News interactions between humans and bears in Colorado are “extremely rare.”
She said anyone who encounters bears should stay calm and let them know people are there.
Helmer, who owns a home down the road from the Cyrs, said a bear had been attacking his neighbor’s chickens recently.
“He had been coming up this way and killing chickens at my neighbor just across the driveway over here, so hes been hanging around this area,” Helmer said. “The D Road back there [where the Cyrs live] is real close to the river. There is a big bluff on the side of the river where they hibernate and the last few years we’ve had resident bears hibernating there and staying year round.”
“Do not ever run from a bear, don’t try and climb a tree, because a bear can do both of those things much faster than we can,” Ferrell said.
Ferrell also said bears are always looking to eat, and people should be careful about where they keep garbage, bird feeders or pet food.
“We want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can when you’re living and recreating in bear country to minimize their interactions to come find food near you,” Ferrell said.
As of Sunday evening, officials said they’d yet to capture the bear, but neighbors said there isn’t too much wilderness to hide in.
“If they don’t get him today, they’ll get him tonight,” Helmer said Sunday of trapping the bear. “There’s too many people watching him now.