Doug Smith

Even if the fish aren’t biting, the ducks aren’t flying and the pheasants aren’t flushing, Doug Smith says any day spent outdoors is a good day. A Minnesota native, he’s been covering the outdoors for the Star Tribune since 1995. He considers walleyes fried over a campfire to be gourmet cuisine.

Bear attacks Aitkin County woman; injuries serious, not life-threatening

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: June 5, 2013 - 1:01 PM

A 190-pound black bear attacked a woman outside her home in Aitkin County in  northern Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources reported today.

The 72-year-old McGregor woman was bitten and clawed by a sow bear before the animal and her three yearlings left the woman’s property near McGregor. The woman’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening. The bears had been seen on the property prior to Monday’s incident.

A conservation officer later killed the 190-pound female, or sow, bear, after the animal ran at the officer as well.

“Like any wild animal, bears can be unpredictable,” said Rodmen Smith, acting director of the DNR’s Division of Enforcement. “This situation was clearly unusual bear behavior and presented a public safety risk.”

Here's more from a DNR news release:

According to the DNR, the incident on Monday began when the woman let her dog outside after checking to make sure the bears, which had been seen on the property for several days, weren’t around. When the three yearlings unexpectedly ran from under the deck, her golden retriever ran off the deck and gave chase.

When the woman reached the bottom of her deck stairs, she saw the sow nearby. The sow initially ran toward the dog, but when the woman yelled for the dog to return, the sow changed direction and came at her, striking her left arm and side with its claws and knocking her to the ground. The bear retreated, and then attacked a second time, biting her on the right arm and leg, leaving puncture wounds. The sow bear ran in the direction of the three yearlings. The woman called 911 around 7 p.m.

An Aitkin County Sheriff’s deputy arrived on the scene but was unable to locate the bears. A DNR conservation officer arrived and found the bears about 200 yards from where the incident occurred. When the sow ran toward him, he shot and killed it.

Under DNR policy and state law, conservation officers and other enforcement agencies may kill a bear if it is considered a threat to public safety. The sow has been taken to the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul for necropsy. The yearlings, which appeared healthy and would naturally become independent of their mother by early June, were left in the area.

Black bears are normally wary of humans, but they can be provoked by unusual circumstances. Bears that feel comfortable living near people may become more unpredictable when faced with a stressful situation, such as a dog in chase of their offspring. Typically, mothers with cubs or yearlings are no more dangerous than solitary bears.

Homeowners should strive not to attract bears to their property. Removing sources of food such as bird feeders, feeding pets indoors, storing trash in bear-proof containers and keeping barbeque grills clean can help avoid attracting bears.

The DNR plans to release more details at a news conference this afternoon. Attacks by black bears in Minnesota are extremely rare.The DNR said this is the fifth time the agency has documented a bear attack on a person resulting in injuries since 1987.

In 2005, a woman walking her dog in the woods southwest of Duluth when she was mauled by a black bear. Mary Munn fought the bear, hitting it in the nose, but she suffered serious injuries.

In 2003, near Grand Marais, a woman found a female bear in her garage, and she was mauled.

In 2002, a bear attacked a grouse researcher near Milaca. He suffered broken facial bones, puncture wounds to his head and left leg, and a broken fibula. 

In 1987, a Minnetonka man was mauled by a black bear in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The victim had to be flown out of the wilderness and was hospitalized with 19 puncture wounds, but survived.

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