Western Wisconsin man loses eye in bear attack

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email

RHINELANDER, EAU CLAIRE Wis. (AP, WEAU) -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' carnivore specialist says attacks by black bear in Wisconsin are unusual, despite two such incidents so far this spring.

David MacFarland, in Rhinelander, says black bear are not aggressive animals and usually don't attack, so the recent attacks in Wisconsin are rare incidents.

In the most recent attack in Burnett County Monday night, a man's dog initiated contact with a bear outside a cabin near Shell Lake before the bear mauled the man and ran off. The man was taken to a hospital in the Twin Cities.

Jerry Brown, 63, was mauled outside his home near Shell Lake.

"He lost his left eye, it crushed his nose, it crushed his face. They inserted like 4 metal plates (Tuesday)," Brown's brother Bob Brown said. "They fixed a lot of bones, he was bit on the arm, so they're draining that."

Bob Brown says he visited his brother Tuesday where doctors said he had no brain damage, but along with losing an eye, a lengthy recovery is ahead.

"He's gonna be a walking wounded man for a long time." "We just want to see him up walking and talking."

Bob and Jerry Brown's brother Randy Brown shot at the bear and it ran away after the attack. The D.N.R. said Jerry's dog interacted with the bear first.

Bob said Jerry may have been too close to a mother with its young.

"This happens. If you encounter a sow with cubs, you're going to have trouble if you get in the way," Bob Brown said.

D.N.R. wildlife supervisor Kris Belling says attacks like these are rare, even though another happened in Marinette County last month.

"In most cases, it's related to food," Belling said. "A person gets in the way, they're in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you have a negative interaction."

"The bear population has gotten so high that I guess it's gonna happen," Bob Brown said.

Belling said the population is spreading south rather than growing in one area, and gave tips on how to stay safe around them.

"Make your presence known, but not to make the bear feel that you're a threat. Don't approach the bear, but you don't want to necessarily want to turn and run away either, because then you're sort of acting like a prey species,"

Bob Brown said he'd like to see more permits given to hunters, but the D.N.R. says extensive studies are done to come up with the number of permits available each year, to maintain a healthy population.

Last month, Gerre Ninnemann's dog tangled with a bear outside in Marinette County before it attacked the man. Ninnemann's wife hit the bear over the head with a gun. That bear was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy.

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