Arizona woman seriously injured in rare bear attack

PHOENIX Wed Jun 29, 2011 7:59pm EDT

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona woman was seriously wounded when a 250-pound male black bear attacked her while she walked her dog at a country club in northeastern Arizona, authorities said on Wednesday.

Lana Rae Hollingsworth, 61, was airlifted to a Phoenix-area hospital where she underwent surgery for injuries she suffered in the rare bear attack late on Tuesday in Pinetop, Arizona. The town is about 200 miles northeast of Phoenix.

Hollingsworth was listed in critical condition late on Wednesday afternoon, said Jamie Houston, a spokeswoman for Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center.

The bear mauled the woman three separate times before it ran away from the attack site, near where it had been scavenging for food in a dumpster, sheriff's office and state Game and Fish Department officials said. The animal was later caught and killed.

Larry Voyles, the department's director, called the incident a "predatory attack" by an extremely dangerous animal, and said the bear had to be destroyed "for the public's safety."

"This was an especially aggressive, unprovoked attack that reminds us that wildlife can be unpredictable," he said in a prepared statement.

The incident marked the seventh bear attack in Arizona since the department began keeping records in 1990, none of which were fatal. The last previous attack occurred in 2006.

Witnesses and neighbors said they responded to the woman's screams by yelling and honking their car horns, causing the bear to scurry up a tree. The animal quickly returned a second and third time before running away.

"Maybe he left because he finally had enough of people coming to her aid," Lieutenant Stephan Birdsong of the Navajo County Sheriff's Office, told Reuters.

The bear was found with the help of tracking dogs about a mile away and was shot and killed, authorities said.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Bohan)

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