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Bear killed after attacking woman near Los Alamos was 200-pound male

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A male bear killed last week by Los Alamos police was confirmed to be the same black bear that attacked a woman at Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, leaving her seriously injured.

DNA samples collected from the victim and the attack site were sent to a Wyoming wildlife forensic laboratory and confirmed the bear that was shot is the one that attacked the 37-year-old woman, said Tristanna Bickford, a spokeswoman with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

She said the agency hasn’t determined what prompted the 200-pound bear to attack the woman, who was at the ski area with her husband to view the NEOWISE comet.

“It would be pure speculation,” she said. “We can’t pinpoint a reason for the attack.”

The victim, Cassandra Marie Scallon of Los Alamos, sustained multiple injuries, including a collapsed lung, broken bones and bite and scratch marks, Game and Fish said.

She was listed in stable condition at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, a hospital spokesman said Wednesday.

Scallon and her husband, Greg Salvesen, were sitting on the deck at the ski area hoping to view the comet when a bear approached the two just after sunset on July 17.

“Coming within a foot of the couple, the bear began chasing the woman and attacked her in the parking lot,” Game and Fish said in a news release the day after the attack.

Police logs show that emergency responders received a phone call from Salvesen at about 9:30 p.m., informing them of the attack and that he was on his way to the Los Alamos Medical Center with his wife.

Los Alamos police officers, who arrived at the ski area before Game and Fish officers, spotted a bear eating trash nearby and fatally shot it in a tree.

An officer “has (the) bear in his sights” and he was killed with two shots after Game and Fish gave their OK, the police log said. The bear was “lodged in a tree” and police requested a ladder from the fire department to get the bear down.

“Bear attacks in general are pretty uncommon in New Mexico,” Bickford said.

There was one bear attack in New Mexico in 2019 and three in 2018 with the recent attack being the first in 2020, she said.

Asked if this attack was out of the ordinary, considering there was apparently no food or cubs present, Bickford said, “It’s hard to tell. Every bear attack is unique.”

Weather conditions can also play a part in human-bear encounters, Bickford said.

“Any time there are extended periods of dry conditions we can expect to see more bears trying to make use of human food and water sources,” she said.

According to “Bear Attacks: Their Cause & Avoidance,” a book by Canadian professor Stephen Herrero, there were 61 fatal black bear attacks in North America from 1900-2009. Ninety percent of them were deemed to be predatory, meaning the victim was seen as prey.

In a small percentage of bear attacks a dog was present. Scallon and Salvesen had their dog with them at the time of the attack.