Bear kills another dog in Vernon

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    VERNON-For the second time in less than a week a small dog has become the victim of a vicious bear attack in the Highland Lakes area of Vernon. Last Sunday at approximately 11:45 a.m., Thomas Burhans of Cahto Road in Highland Lakes was working in his yard when he heard his 87-year-old mother yelling to him that there were bears in the yard. "I was working in the garden, and my four month old puppy Lu Lu was outside on a chain so that she couldn't run away," said Burhans. "When I heard my mother yelling, I went to see, and there were two big cubs up a tree and a huge female. I started yelling to frighten them and chased them into the woods, but when I walked over to my dog, her back had been broken and she was just lying there." Burhans called 911 and was told that there was nothing police could do and that he should take the puppy to the vet. "I was a bit disappointed that the police did not respond to the call because I was very upset, and I would have liked them to drive behind me or something to make sure that I didn't have an accident," Burhans said. "I brought the dog to the animal emergency care in Newton. I knew that her back was destroyed and she would never walk, so I had to have her put to sleep." According to a Vernon Township Police incident report, Patrolman David Dehardt responded to the scene and briefly observed the bears as they left the area into the woods and could not be relocated. On Monday, an agent from the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) went to the Burhans' property and, with Burhans' permission, set a trap for the bear. "We are less than a quarter of a mile from where last week's attack took place, and I have a feeling that it's the same bear," said Burhans. "This bear was not provoked. There was no trash or water around the house, and I am really concerned because my grandchildren are around the house all the time. I hope that it won't be a child that gets attacked the next time." In a third incident this spring, a bear destroyed valuable decorative fish in an outdoor pond. "We definitely have a problem with the bear here in Vernon and the Department of Environmental Protection is all the way down in south-central New Jersey. With limited resources, they can't respond to every call," said Lieutenant Daniel Zill of the Vernon Township Police Department. "The DEP did give us some training and some equipment, but we are contemplating getting together with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State Park rangers because we feel it will be better if we combine our resources," he added. Bear calls are divided into three categories: Class 1, those that are a danger to humans, animals and property; Class II, those that go through trash and destroy vegetable gardens; and Class III, those that are just passing through property. "We have three types of action that we can take with a problem bear," said Zill. "We can use non-lethal rubber buckshot or percussion rounds that have a loud bang and explode after they land to scare the bear away. We call this conditioning. And we have slugs to kill the bear where necessary," he added. In 2003, the year of New Jersey's most recent bear hunt, Vernon Township Police received 263 bear calls, conditioned 15 bears and killed two. As a result of the 2003 bear hunt over 250 bears were killed, the majority taken from Sussex County. Last year the police department received 93 bear calls. Of those, seven were conditioned and none killed. This year police have to date received 32 calls. Four bears were conditioned and none have been killed. "When it comes to bears, too many people show a total lack of judgment by feeding them and trying to follow them to take their photo or whatever," said Zill. "I've heard people say that no one has ever been killed by a black bear, but you don't want to be the first one."