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BEAR KILLS BABY; Parents watch as tot is mauled to death.

A BEAR mauled a baby girl to death after snatching her from her pushchair as her horrified parents looked on.

Five-month-old Esther Schwimmer was dozing outside her family's bungalow in the Catskills, in New York state.

Her mum Rachel heard a neighbour scream: "Bear! Bear!" and quickly got her other children, aged four and two, to safety.

But before she could reach Esther, the 150lb black bear ran away with the tot in its mouth.

The girl's dad, Pincus, was injured as he tried to tackle the bear, finally getting it to drop the tot as he chased after it screaming and throwing stones.

Minutes later, a police officer shot the bear dead, but Esther had died from severe trauma to the head and neck.

Although bears are common in the Catskill mountains, attacks are rare.

State officials said it was believed to be the first time a black bear had killed anyone in New York.

Police chief Brent Law-rence said: "In 30 years on the force, I never remember any violent encounter between a bear and a human.

"Basically, black bears are afraid of humans."

Esther's parents live in Brooklyn, but spend their summers in Woodridge in the Catskills, an area popular with New York Hasidic Jews.

Rachel had rushed to help after hearing warning shouts.

But Lawrence said: "By the time she went back out to the carriage, the baby was gone.

"She saw the baby in the jaws of the bear.

"She and others hollered and screamed, and the bear got scared and dropped the baby and ran into the woods.

"It all happened in a matter of seconds."

Witness Isaac Abraham said: "The bear grabbed the child out of the stroller and dragged her to the woods.

"People started chasing it, throwing rocks. Everybody was absolutely in panic."

Would-be rescuer Moshe Katz added: "The baby was hanging from the bear's mouth like a doll.

"Everyone went to help, but the bear stood its ground until it opened its mouth and dropped the baby."

Policeman Dave Decker, who arrived minutes later, said: "I walked to the woods and saw the bear. I shot it, firing once into the lung and heart area."

The bear, which was about two years old, was taken away to be tested for rabies.

Foraging bears are regular visitors at dumps in the Catskills and occasionally blunder into kitchens and garages, but are usually very shy of people.

Experts said the bear that attacked Esther on Monday may have mistaken her for an animal or smelled food on her clothing.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 21, 2002
Words:427
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