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Bear cubs tranquilized after attack released Thursday morning

A mother bear attacked a 55-year-old woman Tuesday night, March 5, in Butler Township. Once the mother was euthanized, her three cubs were tranquilized as they hid in a tree. Officials said the cubs were released into the wild Thursday, March 7. Photo courtesy of WTAE

The three bear cubs that were tranquilized in a Butler Township neighborhood following a bear attack earlier this week were released into the wild Thursday, March 7, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The cubs were rounded up after their mother attacked Lee Ann Galante, 55, in her Bellefield Drive backyard around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Galante had her dog, Smoky, in the yard around that time when the mother bear approached and attacked. She suffered injuries to her head, neck, arms and face following the attack.

The bears had climbed a tree at the rear of Galante’s property after the incident, police said, and the mother bear became aggressive. The mother bear was euthanized around 9 p.m. One neighbor reported seeing the bear drop from the tree.

According to Travis Lau, communications director for the Game Commission, the cubs and their mother did not have rabies, allowing for the cubs to be released in Pine Grove Township, Warren County, on state game lands Thursday.

“We will release them first thing in the morning, away from the site of the attack,” he said in an email Wednesday night. “The habitat in this area ensures plenty of food, water and cover for these yearlings.”

The cubs are between 60 to 80 pounds each, and would have left their mother in the coming weeks.

Since the incident, Lau said the commission has received many questions about the decision to euthanize the mother bear.

“The answer is that even when there are circumstances, like a dog being present or a bear being cornered, that might trigger and attack, it is also possible that these factors did not play a role, and that the bear simply is prone to attack,” he said. “Bears involved in attacks are euthanized to ensure public safety.”

He said the commission’s goal is ultimately to manage and protect wildlife, so it was not an action that was taken lightly.

“Euthanizing in these cases is the most responsible action,” he said.

Galante said Wednesday her neighbors had seen the bears around their home two weeks earlier.

As an animal lover, Galante said she was sad to hear of the mother bear’s death.

“I love animals, and I didn’t want to see that happen,” she said.

According to the state Game Commission’s website, 2,920 black bears were harvested in Pennsylvania in 2023. Butler County contributed 29 bears to that number. In 2022, 40 bears were harvested in the county.

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