The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that Abby Wetherell, 12, was injured Thursday, August 15, in an attack by a black bear in Wexford County, north of Cadillac. Abby was airlifted to Munson Medical Center where she underwent surgery. She suffered deep lacerations in her thigh. Abby was released from the hospital Sunday, August 18, and is recovering at her Haring Township home.
Conservation Officers Sam Koscinski and Holly Pennoni from the DNR were quickly on scene following the attack, which occurred shortly after 9 p.m. in Haring Township. Abby, who lives in Haring Township, was returning from a cabin down a two-track road when she caught sight of a bear. She began to run in hopes of reaching nearby homes. The bear attacked and clawed her. Abby was able to get to her feet and ran again. The bear caught up with her and attacked a second time. She shouted for help and a neighbor heard her and ran to her aid calling her name. This startled the bear and the bear ran off.
The DNR actively searched for the bear by setting traps in the area of the attack.
On Saturday, August 17, at about 11:30 p.m., Conservation Officer Koscinski and Pennoni responded to a complaint of a bear in Wexford County’s Selma Township to find a man had shot and wounded a bear on his property that he felt to be a threat to his life. Officers tracked the bear and shot and killed it at about 2:45 a.m. Sunday. It’s unknown whether it is the same bear that attacked Abby Wetherell. It was killed about two miles from where that attack occurred.
The bear’s carcass has been sent to the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory in Lansing for DNA and disease testing. The animal will be checked against fur and other DNA samples lifted from Abby’s clothing and from the area of last Thursday’s attack. Because of the difficulty of extracting DNA evidence and the time required for processing tests, results will take several days. The bear killed Sunday may not be the animal responsible for Thursday’s attack. The DNR will continue to keep bear traps in the area of the attack and to monitor bear activity in the area. When found, the bear will be euthanized and tested for disease. The DNR is asking the public to be mindful of the department’s efforts to capture the bear and stay clear of the area where the attack occurred. If a bear is sighted, please contact the department’s Cadillac Operations Service Center at (231) 775-9727. You can also contact the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Hotline, 800-292-7800.
Michigan has an estimated black bear population of 8,000 to 10,000 bears, with 90 percent of the population in the Upper Peninsula. There is an established bear population in the area of Wexford County where this attack occurred. The DNR reminds the public that black bears are generally fearful of humans and will usually leave if they become aware that people are present. Bear attacks on human beings are highly unusual, and in most cases occur because a sow is protecting her cubs. However, there is no evidence that cubs were present where this incident occurred.
Here are some important facts to remember when you are in an area where bears may be present:
To avoid surprising bears, travel in small groups and make noise.
If you encounter a bear, stand your ground and then slowly back away. Do not turn away. Do not show fear and run. Do not play dead.
Make yourself look bigger and talk to the bear in a stern voice.
Fight back if actually attacked with a backpack, stick, or bare hands.
Carry pepper spray, which has been shown to be effective in fending off bear attacks.
For additional information on living with bears, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/bear.