Deer hunter attacked in tree stand by momma bear
ST. PAUL A Wisconsin deer hunter was recovering at home Thursday after a bear attacked her this week in Polk County. Lisa Lang, 28, of Clam Falls was bitten in the leg when the bear climbed 20 feet to her tree stand Tuesday. Lang escaped when the...
A Wisconsin deer hunter was recovering at home Thursday after a bear attacked her this week in Polk County.
Lisa Lang, 28, of Clam Falls was bitten in the leg when the bear climbed 20 feet to her tree stand Tuesday. Lang escaped when the bear retreated, but her wound required 40 stitches.
Bear attacks are rare, but this one featured such uncommon circumstances that several black bear experts said they couldn't recall any quite like it.
Lang said she was bow hunting about 6 p.m. on the edge of a freshly mowed, family-owned cornfield. A deer decoy was about 20 yards in front of her. Her husband, Jeff, was about 120 yards away in a tree stand across the field.
Lang said she saw a mother bear and four cubs enter the field some 70 yards to the side.
"The cubs were all playing, just moving along, and then when they got close to the decoy, they sort of got spooked or something," she said. "I started hearing different noises and growling."
Lang said she didn't think the bears were aware of her.
"I think if they didn't get startled by the decoy, none of this would've happened," she said.
The Langs said they believe they had seen the family of bears in the past several years but never had any problems.
One of the cubs bolted from the decoy -- and up a tree just a few yards from Lang's stand.
"He was eye level with me," she said. "Then the sow came over and spotted me."
She and her husband estimated the bear to be more than 400 pounds.
Often, for protection in case of a bear encounter, Jeff Lang carries a sidearm, and Lisa does occasionally. But neither was armed Tuesday.
Lisa Lang, who has been hunting for six years, said she quickly considered her options, including loading a bow for a possible shot or making noise, a common tactic to scare off a black bear.
She chose to yell at the mother bear.
"She just bounded up the tree in three bounds and grabbed my leg," Lang said.
After a few seconds, the bear released its jaws from below Lang's right knee. But it remained on the tree long enough for her to scream to her advancing husband: "I'm bit and she's still in the tree!"
The bear retreated to the base of the tree but paced around it. Lang decided against loading her bow and firing, fearing a nonfatal wound might further anger the bear.
"Besides, I couldn't think to draw my bow," she said. "It was sheer panic."
As Jeff Lang approached, the bear backed away, allowing his wife to climb down from her stand and flee across the field with him. The cub remained in the tree the entire time.
Bear experts said the circumstances of the attack were so unusual that it wasn't appropriate to second-guess any of Lang's actions.
In general, black bears -- the only kind found in the region -- are timid. If a bear enters a campsite or picnic area, acting aggressively to scare it off is recommended.
Sows protecting cubs are more aggressive, however. Lynn Rogers, a biologist with Wildlife Research Institute and the North American Bear Center in Ely, said it's possible that when Lisa yelled at the bear, it made things worse.
"The more aggressive she was, the more of a threat the mother would have thought she was," Rogers said.
Rogers said that while attacks of any kind from black bears are extremely rare, there's some limited evidence to suggest black bears might be more willing to attack when a person is up a tree because black bears have evolved to be more comfortable in trees than on the ground.
"But this is so rare," he said of Tuesday's attack. "Most mothers are not nearly that aggressive."
Kevin Harter, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the bear seems to have acted within the "realm of understandable bear behavior." As such, there is no plan to go after the bear, although he said wardens will keep an eye on the area.
"It's Bear 101: Never come between a sow and her cubs," Harter said. "In this case, of course, it's completely an accident."
Lang said she respects the DNR decision. She said she plans to hunt again at some point, "but it'll probably be more with firearms."
Distributed by MCT Information Services