DNR checks out 'unusual' bear attack
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is looking into what might have caused a black bear to maul a man Saturday night outside his girlfriend's hunting blind.
Tiffany Mallow told the Northland's NewsCenter she had been bow hunting near Old Highway 105 and Pokegama Road and was late coming out of the woods when her boyfriend, Charlie Lehman, came to pick her up. She said Lehman arrived at her blind and found her hiding under a burlap cover while a hungry black bear fed on her corn bait just 20 yards away. After waiting 20 minutes for the bear to move on, Lehman decided to try to frighten it off, Mallow said. He screamed at it, but instead of running, it turned on him and mauled him. Mallow said she shot the bear with an arrow, and Lehman stabbed it to fend it off.
Fred Strand, wildlife manager in Superior for the Wisconsin DNR, said he's seen reports of the bear mauling.
"It would be extremely unusual if how it was reported is the way it happened," Strand said Monday evening.
Superior police say when they were called to the scene, about 8 p.m. Saturday, Lehman and Mallow were back at the road, and Lehman was nursing apparent bite wounds on his forearm and calf.
Mallow told the NewsCenter she shot the bear after hearing her boyfriend "scream and tussle with this bear. I nocked an arrow."
Mallow said she shot the bear in the lungs, which dropped it instantly. She said Lehman stabbed the bear in the neck with his pocket knife.
The bear let go of Lehman, who retreated to the hunting blind. Mallow said the two waited in the blind until the bear stopped making any sounds.
Lehman then stepped out to make sure the bear was dead --but it wasn't. It bit Lehman's leg before letting go and retreating into the woods.
That's when they made it back to the road, where they called 911.
Lehman was rushed to Essentia Health St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth while Mallow went back into the woods with two Superior police officers to find the wounded bear. Police shot and killed the bear.
Lehman was released from the hospital Sunday night, Mallow told the NewsCenter.
The bear was taken to Hursh Meat Processing in Poplar, said Rob Hursh, who owns the company. The bear was skinned there and held in cold storage. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources took the hide and carcass, Hursh said. The skull was taken to the Douglas County Health and Human Services department for testing, he said.
The bear, a male, appeared to weigh about 200 pounds, Hursh said. Earlier reports had stated the bear was female.
Typically, bears will run away when shouted at or confronted by a human.
"The natural foods have been not the best this fall," said Martha Minchak, assistant area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Duluth. "The bear was probably eating anything it could find, trying to fatten up (before retreating to a den for the winter)."
Lehman was trying to chase the bear away from a readily accessible food source, she said, and perhaps the bear just didn't want to leave.
Strand said bears are learning to link humans to food.
"We humans place all kinds of food for deer and bears and other wildlife, and, frankly, I think we have habituated a number of bears to associate food with humans," Strand said.
Another hunting-related bear attack was reported last month in Wisconsin. In mid-September, a member of a hunting party was attacked by a bear in Lincoln County, Strand said.
"He approached a bear that had been shot (with a firearm)," Strand said. "When he got there, the bear wasn't dead, and it injured the individual."