JUNEAU -- Black bears in residential neighborhoods aren't exactly unheard of in Juneau. While many people stay inside when bears are about, one local woman says she had a different instinct when she saw her dog was in trouble.
It started out as a typical evening for 22-year-old Brooke Collins. She let her dogs out as usual but this time, she said there was a black bear outside who took hold of her dachshund Fudge. She said she feared for her pet's life and, in an instant, ran over and punched the bear right in the face to make it let go.
"It was all so fast. All I could think about was my dog was going to die," said Collins.
"It was a stupid thing, but I couldn't help it," she said. "I know you're not supposed to do that, but I didn't want my dog to be killed."
Collins said she didn't see the bear outside when she let the dogs out around 7:30 p.m. Sunday. She said Fudge just darted out and the barking could be heard almost instantly. She said that barking was "the most horrible sound in the world."
Collins said when she looked outside she saw a bear was crouching down with Fudge in its paws and was biting the back of the dog's neck.
"That bear was carrying her like a salmon," she said.
She said she almost instinctively went up and did the first thing she thought of. She punched the bear's face and scooped away her dog when it let go.
It all happened too fast to really think about but she had flashes of hearing about how some animals will back off from a punch to the nose, she said.
She said her boyfriend Regan O'Toole came out upon hearing the screaming. O'Toole said the bear already looked startled from being punched at that point. He said the animal went down the driveway and into the bushes to the mountain as he ran toward it.
Her dog suffered some claw and bite marks but they weren't deep so she said she decided not to take Fudge to the vet. She said the dog appeared to be more shocked than injured. She said she will get Fudge checked out if they appear infected.
Collins said she's very close to her dogs, which is why she reacted this way. She said after this experience, however, she'll keep a closer eye on them outside, as she fears an encounter with her other canine, a Pomeranian named Toki.
Collins lives in a neighborhood tucked up against Mount Juneau. She said black bear sightings are a regular occurrence there. She believes this same one has been around her house many times and is not afraid of people.
She said if this is that bear, it's definitely used to people and keeps coming back and may even know what days the trash will be out. She said she's even followed it to take pictures before.
O'Toole said he's seen five bears in the area this year, including a sow with two cubs.
"We haven't had any attacks over the years and they're around all the time," he said.
Collins said one scary thing in hindsight was the bear's size, which she said was very large even when it was crouching. O'Toole said it was definitely a large one.
Collins said the whole experience of a physical encounter shook her up, calling the whole thing an eye-opener. She said she'll be taking a lot more caution from now on and definitely won't be approaching neighborhood bears.
"It's definitely changed my opinion because I never thought one would attack my dog," she said. "I wasn't in my right mind at the moment but I would never think of doing it again."
By JONATHAN GRASS