TOP SECRET ANIMAL ATTACK FILES
Special Report filed by AAF Correspondent: Scott Tingley
from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
hunter mauled by his potential prey
Frederic man, searching for tracks in cornfield, startled cub, its mother
By Jessica Hansen of the Journal Sentinel staff
September 18, 2000
A northwestern Wisconsin man was recovering from injuries Monday after being attacked by a bear in a Polk County cornfield.
Bear hunter Duane R. Olson, 42, of Frederic was searching for bear tracks in the field when he came across a cub. Olson said he made a loud noise to scare the cub away, which prompted the mother bear to charge him.
The mother bear "came just flying right at me," he said.
"She hit the row I was in, about 10 yards from me. . . . I thought she was going to run right by me," he said. "But she plowed right into me and had me right on my back."
Olson said he escaped serious injury by grabbing the nearly 150-pound black bear by the throat and pushing it off him, but not before the animal bit his leg, scratched his hand and arm, and punctured his abdomen.
"There's two deep gashes in my leg . . . and then two deep puncture wounds on each side of the knee," he said. "It could have been a lot worse. That thing could have killed me in seconds."
Olson, whose leg has swollen to twice its normal size since Thursday's attack, received about 20 stitches, each about a half-inch from the next to allow the wound to drain. He was treated and released from a hospital in St. Croix Falls.
Olson, who said he has hunted bears for 15 years, was scouting the area with friends when he was attacked. He said he was not hunting at the time.
Department of Natural Resources bear biologist Mike Gappa said that although bear attacks are rare, contact between bears and humans is on the rise.
One reason for increased contact may be that Wisconsin simply has more bears than in the past, said Gappa, who studies the animals at the DNR's western regional office in Eau Claire.
Wisconsin is home to about 14,000 American black bears, a population that has more than tripled since the mid-1980s, when the bear population reached such a low level that the hunting season was canceled for several years, according to the DNR.
Another reason for the increase in bear-human encounters is that more people than ever are moving to bear country, Gappa said.
More than three-quarters of the state's bears - one per square mile - live in a nearly 11,000-square-mile area west of U.S. Highway 51 and north of state Highway 64, Gappa said.
Still, more and more bears are being spotted in more populous areas to the south.
"They are definitely living near people," he said. "They may not be living in the backyard, but very close to the backyard."
While no bears have taken up residence in southern Wisconsin, Gappa said, transient bears have been spotted as far south as Madison. Bears are also popping up in Jackson and Monroe counties with increasing regularity.
The close encounters may be something Wisconsinites have to get used to, Gappa said.
"Someday, we may see 20,000 bears in Wisconsin," he said. "Can those animals and people coexist harmlessly? Yes. But dealing with them is just something you'll have to learn to do if you're living in bear country."
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