A hiker reported an encounter with a mother black bear and two cubs on the Snead Farm Fire Road near Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.6 Skyline Drive) in Shenandoah National Park on Aug. 3, not far from Front Royal. The hiker was accompanied by two dogs on retractable leashes. Confronted by the bear, the hiker fled the area, at which point the bear attacked the trailing dog, which later died of its injuries.
The Snead Farm Fire Road and Loop Trail remain closed while park staff monitor the area, according to park officials. This week, the park announced that a temporary ban on dogs would remain in effect in the Dickey Ridge area through Sept. 5 to reduce the risk of negative dog/bear encounters.
“This action in no way will change the park’s policy of allowing dogs in the park,” said a park spokesperson. “It is being taken with an abundance of caution to provide a resident sow and two cubs with an adequate buffer from disturbances by dogs within this bear’s home range.”
“We are very sad to learn about this dog that died as a result of injuries from an encounter with a bear in the park,” said Park Superintendent Jim Northup. “This is a very rare event, and we offer our condolences to the dog’s family.”
The park closed several other trails in early July after an “overly assertive” bear approached a hiker, who tried the normal waving and making loud noises to drive the animal away, but eventually had to poke the bear with his hiking poles before he would go away. The behavior wasn’t reported again and the closed trails were reopened in late July.
Park regulations require that dogs be leashed at all times on a leash that is 6 feet long or shorter. When confronted by a bear, walkers and hikers should stand their ground, wave their arms and make a lot of noise. Running from a bear can trigger their prey response.