A five-year-old girl attacked by a black bear outside her home over the weekend is expected to recover thanks to the quick thinking of her mother, who scared the animal away, officials said.
The unidentified girl is in good condition in hospital in Colorado.
Wildlife officials said they killed the bear believed to be responsible for the attack in East Orchard Mesa, a semi-rural area near the city of Grand Junction, about 240 miles west of Denver.
She truly exemplified the love and courage of what it takes to be a mother and, because of those actions, her child is here todayJT Romatzke, regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Bear sightings are fairly common in the high-desert area, although it is not their typical habitat.
Because acorns and berries that bears typically rely on are doing well in the mountains where they usually live, officials suspect the animal hibernated locally and became accustomed to easily finding food near homes, from waste, livestock feed or barbecues.
The attack led officials to renew their call for residents to secure food sources and use bear-proof rubbish bins.
The girl’s mother told state wildlife officers that her daughter went outside around 2.30am after hearing noises she thought might be coming from her dog.
The mother said she heard screaming and found her daughter being dragged by a large black bear. She told authorities that the bear dropped the girl after she yelled at it.
“She truly exemplified the love and courage of what it takes to be a mother and, because of those actions, her child is here today,” said JT Romatzke, regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Paediatric surgeon Charles Breaux Jr told reporters the bear apparently bit the girl on her back but she did not have any injuries to her brain or organs or suffer any fractures.
He said she had 77 external stitches and more internally.
Doctors expect the girl to “mend very well”, but will monitor her to make sure she does not develop any infections or rabies, hospital spokeswoman Teri Cavanagh said.
In 911 recordings released on Monday, the girl’s father calmly says: “She’s just missing a chunk out of her back, a couple spots in her leg.”
The 125lb and approximately two-year-old male bear suspected in the attack was shot by wildlife officers on Sunday night as it was walking up to a home about half a mile away from where the girl was attacked.
Three traps were set to catch the bear, but officers killed it before the animal entered one.
Colorado has an estimated 17,000 to 20,000 bears, a population considered robust in a state of 5.7 million people that also attracts many tourists.
Every year, there are cases of hungry bears getting into cars and sometimes buildings to find food, especially during periods of drought.
Wildlife officials stress black bears are not out to hunt people but that conflicts, including attacks, can happen once bears get access to easy, calorie-rich human food and return for more.