Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Woman tells of bear attack
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Mary Munn is in good spirits at a Duluth hospital Monday, as she recounts how she was attacked by a black bear last week. Her injuries were not life-threatening. (MPR Photo/Bob Kelleher)
A Carlton County woman Monday described her harrowing encounter with a black bear near her home Friday. Mary Munn, 50, is recovering from bites and deep scratches in a Duluth hospital. The DNR is still looking for the bear.

Duluth, Minn. — Mary Munn says she's been around bears before, but she was totally surprised by the bear she ran into Friday. Munn described her brush with a black bear from a room in Duluth's St. Mary's Hospital. She lives near Holyoke, in rural Carlton County.

Munn went for a walk into nearby woods Friday, to see a beaver dam. Her dog, Maggie, accompanied her. It was on the return trip that she ran into trouble.

"When I came out of the woods, there was a bear, standing, looking right at me about 30 feet away, and it immediately charged me," Munn said. "I ran a couple of steps but I turned around, because I didn't want to be tackled from behind. And it stopped and just snorted at me and dashed away about 10 feet. And then it came right back at me again."

Mann says the bear was maybe desk-high on all fours. But when it stood on its hind legs, it was about six feet tall. Munn says it came at her with its head lowered. She'd been holding a stick, which she broke across the bear, to no effect.

"I punched it in the nose -- I mean, each time it charged me. I whistled for my dog to distract the bear, and the dog ran by behind the bear, and the bear went after the dog, and as soon as the dog outran the bear, the bear came back and chased at me again," Mann said.

"At that point it took a swipe out of my knee, and the dog went by again, and it chased the dog again, and I looked at my knee and it really hurt bad, and I kind of went "ahhh." And the bear heard me and came back," Mann said.

It knocked me down to the ground, and grabbed me by the waist and shook me, and grabbed my armpit. And then it just looked up and it took off.
- Mary Munn

"That's when it knocked me down to the ground, and grabbed me by the waist and shook me, and grabbed my armpit. And then it just looked up and it took off again, and at that point I just stood up and walked away as fast as I could," she said.

Until now, the bear stood on the path between Munn and her home, but this time the way was clear. Munn started for home, a quarter of a mile away. She never looked back.

"I didn't want to see it. I didn't want to look back, because I just had no more defenses. And I just kept walking and hoping it wasn't behind me," said Mann. "And my dog joined me again about 50 feet later, and she stayed with me on the rest of the walk home."

Munn called 911 from her house. She rested in the shade outside her home and waited for the police.

Dr. Kevin Stephan is an infectious expert at St. Mary's hospital. He could find no record of a bear in Minnesota transmitting rabies. But he says, some bears have been known to carry the disease, so Munn was given a rabies vaccination.

"The bottom line is we just couldn't know. Mary has a profession where she might be exposed, and recreational pursuits where she be exposed to animals in the future," Stephan said. "So going forward, it really seemed like the wise thing and the prudent thing to offer the vaccination."

In the meantime, the DNR has set traps, hoping to capture the bear, according to Assistant Wildlife Manager Chris Balzer, in Cloquet.

"There's two traps set -- baited traps. ... They're big barrel traps basically on wheels. And we wheel them out there and bait them, and they're set in the vicinity of where this lady was attacked," says Balzer. "And if we catch a bear it will most likely be killed and checked for some forensic evidence, to see if we have the right bear or not."

Balzer says it's impossible to say why the bear might have attacked.

"Who knows? I mean, there's thousands of people and thousands of bears in Minnesota and they interact on a daily basis. And it's just extremely rare to see anything near this aggressive in terms of bear behavior," says Balzer.

DNR experts say there's no right way to respond to a black bear attack. They're so rare, experts can't say just how a person should react.

Munn suffered deep wounds to her knee and her side, with many other scratches. Still, she says, there was no severe damage to organs or arteries.

Doctors say her knee still needs to be watched for infection. Her wounds were dirty, with clear evidence of the bear's jaws closing on her sides. There were dirt, sticks and pine cones embedded in some of the wounds, and bear saliva all over.

The whole encounter might have lasted a minute. Recovery will take a lot longer.