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Washington state woman fended off black bear by punching it in the nose, official says

The unidentified woman was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after the bear knocked her down Saturday when she let her dog out.
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A Washington state woman was injured after a bear knocked her to the ground outside her home Saturday morning, a wildlife official said.

The adult female black bear attacked the resident, who was not identified, when she let her dog out about 7 a.m. in Leavenworth, an Alpine-style village in the Cascade Mountains, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement.

The bear charged the woman and knocked her to the ground. She was hospitalized with significant injuries, according to the Chelan County Sheriff's Office. The injuries were not thought to be life-threatening, the Fish and Wildlife department said.

The bear was ultimately killed in the same area later in the morning by Fish and Wildlife officers, it said.

One of the factors in the decision to kill the bear was that it was overweight, likely from eating leftovers and trash, the department told NBC affiliate KING-TV of Seattle.

State wildlife biologist Rich Beausoleil suggested to the station that the woman made the right move by fighting it off after she was knocked down.

"She didn't see it coming so she could not make herself big, clap her hands, you know, yell at the bear, wave her arms," Beausoleil told the station. "Those are the things we usually tell people to do."

Bringing the fight to the bear may have prevented further aggression, he said.

"If the bear knocks you down, then yes, your solution is to fight," he told KING. "It was just instinct for her. She just turned around and popped it right in the nose."

The bear "shook" and ran away, Beausoleil said in relaying the woman's story.

Aggressive behavior from female grizzly bears has given mother bears a bad name among humans, but experts say it's rare for a black bear mother to attack to protect her offspring.

In the case of Saturday's altercation, Fish and Wildlife officials found two cubs they believe belonged to the attacker, but didn't say the relatively little ones, estimated at nine months, were a factor. The cubs were brought to a wildlife rehabilitation facility.

"Black bear mothers seldom attack people in defense of cubs," the U.S. Forest Service said in a primer on black bears. "Black bear mothers typically bluff or retreat."

Washington hasn't had a fatal black bear attack on humans since 1974, Fish and Wildlife officials said. They've recorded 19 injury attacks on humans since 1970.

Fish and Wildlife Capt. Mike Jewell said in the agency's statement that its officers had little choice but to kill the bear.

"Public safety is our priority," he said. "Our officers and staff were quick to mobilize to locate the animal and secure the scene."

Since the start of fall, bears have attacked a 9-year-old boy in Alaska, a 10-year-old boy in Connecticut, and two college wrestlers who were hunting in Wyoming. Each case involved a different species, including a brown bear in Alaska, a black bear in Connecticut, and a grizzly in Wyoming, officials said. The victims all survived.