CALIENTE, Calif. – A woman mauled by a bear in rural Kern County was recovering Wednesday in a Los Angeles hospital as game wardens sought to trap and kill the animal.
Allena Hansen, 56, was resting comfortably after undergoing extensive surgery to repair injuries suffered in Tuesday's attack, Roxanne Moster, a spokeswoman for the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said in a statement.
Neighbor August Dunning said Hansen had 10 hours of surgery Tuesday on head and face cuts.
Hansen was "lucid, active and probably pretty sore," said Dunning, who called her hospital room Tuesday night and spoke to her son. Dunning said he could hear his friend in the background.
"She's fine. She's talking," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Wildlife trackers using dogs hunted the bear Wednesday. One tracking hound was slightly injured after midnight in what might have been an attack by the animal, Kevin Brennan, a wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, said at a news conference in Ontario.
The attack took place in the Piute area, near the little community of Caliente, on scrubland south of Sequoia National Forest about 85 miles north of Los Angles.
The bear was believed to be still in the area because they are "creatures of habit," Brennan said.
"Right now, there's a trap set. And we're just waiting," Brennan said. "There's a good chance he'll come back."
Capturing the animal could take anywhere from hours to a week, he speculated.
Clothing from the woman was taken for forensic testing to determine if there is fur or other DNA samples from the bear. Brennan said any bear caught in the trap will be killed and its DNA tested to determine if it was the attacker.
Hansen, who has a ranch in the tiny rural community of Twin Oaks, near Caliente, was walking in heavy underbrush on her property Tuesday morning with her dogs when she was attacked, Dunning said.
Her English mastiff may have tried to defend her, Dunning speculated, because it suffered some scratches. An Irish wolfhound was unhurt.
"She had to rely on her dogs and her wits," Dunning said. "She's one tough woman."
Dunning said the attack took place very close to a recent wildfire and speculated that the vast burn area may have pushed the bear into new territory.
"We just had 30,000 acres burn out here and those animals are looking for habitat," he said.
The bear may have attacked to defend that new territory, he said.
Brennan, the wildlife biologist, said there are about 30,000 California black bears and they are not uncommon in the region of the attack, especially at this time of year when young males are moving about.
State game wardens had not had a chance to interview Hansen about the attack and so it was unclear what provoked it, Brennan said.
However, "dogs have been known to agitate bears," he said.
Brennan advised people never to approach a bear but not to give up if attacked. People have been known to drive off bears, he said.
"If attacked, fight back," he said.
The attack was the 13th reported in California since 1980. Records indicate that the last attack in Kern County took place in August 1988 in the Piute Mountains when a female with two cubs attacked and injured a camping couple.