(top) A small bear lay dead in the back yard of a Frazier Park residence after it charged at several people who were trying to save a dog from being mauled. (bottom) Four 12-gauge shotgun cartridges on the ground, less than two feet from where the bear fell. [Meyer photos]
By Patric Hedlund
FRAZIER PARK (Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009—12 p.m.) It was a dark night Monday, Aug. 17, with only the thinnest sliver of moon above the Mountain Community neighborhoods where bears have been seen roaming for weeks. In Frazier Park, about five bears have been working the area around East End and Ohio Trail, seeking food sources near homes. Matt Manville, 38 was startled to suddenly hear his neighbors’ small dog screaming just after 10 p.m. The construction worker, who has lived in Frazier Park since he was six years old, bolted out the door to see his neighbors running up a hill toward the blood-curdling cries. Instinctively, he ran through the dark with them.
The couple’s chihuahua-size dog, Cosmo, had been set outside for a quick evening constitutional. A bear grabbed him and ran as the dog let out horrifying screams, Manville remembers. The bear dropped the mauled dog, which ran back toward the house, straight toward the people. As the bear ran after its prey, it came suddenly face to face with humans. In the confusion and darkness, a sudden panic filled the night.
“It turned from a little scary with the dog being mauled, to really terrifying with the bear turning on individuals," Manville recalls. The bear began to pursue Manville, who ran for his home with the bear behind him. "I thought he was going to get me,” Manville said, still a little nervous. He ducked inside, then came back out to help as the bear turned toward the neighbor’s wife. She slipped, falling to the ground as the bear ran to within four feet of her.
"It was so dark," Manville explained, "we couldn’t see a thing." The neighbor grabbed a shotgun. The bear turned toward him. “He had to wait before he could shoot, because [his wife] was on the other side of the bear, in the line of fire.”
Early Tuesday morning, The Mountain Enterprise photographed four 12-gauge shotgun shells on the ground, less than two feet from the body of a small bear, shot dead in Manville’s backyard.
“It was a stupid thing to do, in retrospect,” Manville said, “Three grown people should know better than to run after a bear in the dark.” The neighbors rushed their dog to a vet for examination at an emergency clinic that night, then took him for further stitching today. "They said Cosmo has a cut on his leg, broken ribs and a bruised spleen. But my neighbors are really banged up. She has a twisted knee and his feet are all cut up. They tried to credit me for saving their dog and helping them, but there were no winners here last night, just a dead animal left in my back yard. It is sad."
The neighbors told Manville they are afraid they will be ridiculed as animal killers. Manville believes most people will see what happened as a terrifying event that serves as a wake-up call to all those who live in mountains surrounded by forest.
"People need education about how to live here. Why doesn’t the sheriff’s office or the game warden give Bear Aware workshops? People need to learn to be careful about creating food sources that attract bears," Manville said thoughtfully.
By 1 p.m. a Fish and Game warden visited the neighbors and Manville to investigate the event.
More of this story wil be reported in this week’s issue of The Mountain Enterprise.
—Additional reporting by Gary Meyer
This is part of the August 14, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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