Concerns in Northwoods after two bear attacks

OCONTO COUNTY (WITI) — There are concerns in the Northwoods after two recent black bear attacks — including one involving a man that was mauled this past Monday. Officials fear he may not be the last.

Sportsmen’s Xchange Manager Jeff Toneys says last archery deer season, he saw 15 bears.

“I’ve been on my tree stand several times where bears aren’t scared anymore. You can be 15 yards from them and stomp up and down. They’ll sit there and look at you,” Toneys said.

Toneys has trail cam pictures taken just miles from his Oconto County store.

“They’re out looking for food. They’re hungry,” Toneys said.

DNR Wildlife Supervisor Jeff Pritzl says two recent bear attacks on people have one thing in common.

“It almost always revolves around a food source.¬†We had a late spring. Food sources, natural food sources were limited. They’re later, and our berry crops are going to be late this year,” Pritzl said.

Gerre Minnemann fought off a black bear last month near his Marinette County cabin. On Monday, a bear attacked a Shell Lake man near his property in Burnett County.

Pritzl says bears can get used to people.

“If you think you’re going to scare the bear away, you may try that from a distance at first. If the bear doesn’t show signs of being concerned, don’t take it to the next step. It’s better to just back off and let the bear leave. And then address whatever the situation was that was attracting the bear in the first place,” Pritzl said.

Pritzl recommends storing cooking grills in the garage, taking down bird feeders at night and eliminating compost piles in the yard.

There are an estimated 20,000 bears statewide.

Pritzl says two attacks on people would be considered a rarity.

“It doesn’t take a lot of bears, it just takes one that develops behavior that’s not going to be compatible with us,” Pritzl said.

The DNR says bears will be active all summer as females will be protecting new cubs.

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