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Bear mauls wheelchair-bound woman, 71, after becoming trapped in her Groton home

Union Leader Correspondent

July 18. 2018 12:32PM
Fish and Game officers speak with Brian Rourke on Tuesday morning in the kitchen of his girlfriend's mother's house on Halls Brook Road in Groton. Fish and Game believes a bear entered the house around 1 a.m. in search for food, got stuck inside and, when confronted by homeowner Apryl Rogers, lashed out at her in an attempt to exit. Rogers underwent surgery for injuries to her head and face. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

GROTON — A 71-year-old woman underwent surgery Tuesday morning for serious injuries to her head and face suffered in a pre-dawn encounter with a bear in her home.

Apryl Rogers of 21 Halls Brook Road suffered lacerations to the left side of her head and face and may lose her left eye, her daughter Stacey Murray said.

According to Fish and Game officials, Rogers called 911 around 1:15 a.m. to report a bear inside her New England-style saltbox, which is located near the Mary Baker Eddy Historic House.

The bear was gone when the first emergency responder arrived. Rogers was taken to Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth, then transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, where she went into surgery around 10:30 a.m., said Murray.

Sgt. Tom Dakai of Fish and Game said he had not yet spoken with Rogers, but a preliminary investigation led him to believe that the bear was attracted to the house by food and entered accidentally through a side door that was not latched.

The bear may have come across a bag of bird food that investigators found just outside the door, Dakai said, and went inside, where it found food that Rogers had put out for her several cats, as well as food inside cupboards and trash bags.

The bear “got stuck” in the house, Dakai said. When Rogers came out of her bedroom to investigate the commotion, the bear lashed out at her. It was unknown, said both Dakai and Murray, whether Rogers fought off the bear or whether she had opened the door to let it out.

Murray described her mom as “feisty” and “strong,” and noted she had the wherewithal to dial 911 while bleeding and injured.

With nearly three decades of Fish and Game service, Dakai said he recalled only three or four instances in which a bear had entered a residence and only one where a bear was aggressive toward a human.

It’s “very rare that it’s an actual attack, intentional” said Dakai, but the fact that the bear that hurt Rogers entered her home makes it “a candidate for euthanasia,” he said, although the decision to kill the bear will come from Fish and Game leadership.

Due to Tuesday’s occasionally torrential downpours, Fish and Game K9 units were unable to follow the bear’s scent, but Dakai, with Murray’s permission, set up a trap for it on her mother’s property.

The kitchen door at Apryl Rogers' residence on Halls Brook Road in Groton with claw marks clearly apparent. (John Koziol)

Murray, who, with her boyfriend, Brian Rourke, spent most of Tuesday cleaning up the mess left by the bear, said she visited her mom last week and saw a bear “right in the middle of the road.” She said her mother had recently seen a bear on her deck.

Even though Murray took down her mother’s bird feeders as a precaution, she said: “I was wondering whether it (a confrontation with a bear) was going to happen some day, and it was today.”

Fish and Game officials said the bear was definitely not Mink, a sow that has twice been relocated from Hanover and that the agency is tracking with an electronic collar.

Murray is confident that her mom, who has faced several health challenges and is confined to a wheelchair due to Guillain-Barré syndrome, will recover.

A native of Essex, Mass., Rogers came north years ago when her then- husband took a job with an energy company, said Murray, who grew up in Hudson and now lives in Manchester.

In addition to being a mother of two, Rogers was a hairdresser and waitress, and she also had worked at Plymouth State University. Rogers had lived in Campton before moving to Groton about four years ago.

Last August, Rogers’ husband, Albert Rogers Jr., passed away, said Murray.

What happened to her mom on Tuesday, Murray said, is “just another obstacle. But she’ll be OK.”

Public Safety Animals Groton

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