Earlier this summer, Steven Krichbaum was hiking with his unleashed dog through the George Washington National Forest in West Virginia when he came face to face with two cubs. Seconds later, he saw their mother—a 250-pound black bear who clearly didn’t like strangers near her babies.
She immediately attacked Krichbaum. “She charged down the hill and bit me in the thigh,” Krichbaum told ABC News.
Krichbaum’s dog automatically went on the defensive and lunged at the bear, providing Krichbaum with just enough time to find a rock and hurl it. The pair was able to escape the attack with minor injuries.
“I threw the rock at her head,” he told ABC News. “I didn’t want to hurt her…but just make her go away.”
Following the attack, the Division of Natural Resources in West Virginia placed traps in the area where the attack occurred. If caught, the bears would be tested for rabies and then euthanized.
The plan to euthanize the bears caused outrage among conservationists who say that the bears were provoked by Krichbaum’s unleashed dog and the mother’s attacks was a natural defense response.
Since then, a petition has surfaced online demanding that the DNR rethink its policies on euthanizing bears involved in attacks on humans. The traps have been removed from the area, but Heidi Flynn, the Wardensville, West Virginia, resident who started the petition, believes that more change is needed to protect the bears.
“The goal is to change the WV DNR’s policies to prevent future unethical practices that would involve the killing of a bear that was provoked,” she writes.
The petition, which has garnered nearly 5,000 supporters, also states that proper steps should be taken to ensure that if an animal is to be euthanized, it must first be accurately linked to the incident through DNA testing and noticeable markings. She also urges the DNR to restrain from euthanizing any cubs, instead transporting them to a sanctuary until they are of age to fend for themselves.
Even Krichbaum spoke out against the DNR, saying their decision to euthanize the bears is appalling and that humans need to be aware of the risks when entering bears’ natural habitat.
“I don’t want to live in Disneyland,” Krichbaum said. “If you want to live in Disneyland, stay home.”