After attack, DNR might send hunters to kill bear

by Brad Unangst

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials are considering the use of conservation hunters to kill a black bear that attacked a University wildlife researcher near Milaca, Minn., Sunday afternoon.

“This was a pretty severe attack and taking the bear is in the best interest of the public,” DNR Communications Director Dennis Stauffer said.

Officials set a live-bait trap – a cage with a door that swings closed when the bear picks up the bait – in the area, but said if the trap does not work within the next couple of days, they are going to use the hunters.

DNR officials said while bear attacks are rare, the aggressive nature of this attack prompted their decision.

Eight hours after the attack, the DNR received a report of a large adult black bear killed on a road about 10 miles from the attack site. They are running tests to determine whether it’s the bear that attacked the researcher, 24-year-old Miles Becker, officials said.

Becker, who works in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, was attacked at 12:45 p.m. Sunday 10 miles north of Milacaat the Four Brooks Wildlife Management Area.

He was tracking woodcocks, which are small game birds, using a radio transmitter when the bear came at him out of the woods, officials said.

Becker noticed something moving in the brush in front of him, but thought it was a deer, said Ed Boggess, assistant director of the DNR’s wildlife division.

Static from either a two-way radio or from the radio transmitter probably startled the bear, Boggess added.

The bear continued to attack Becker until he stopped fighting back, Boggess said. The bear then circled Becker a couple of times before going back into the woods.

“It’s typical behavior for a bear that feels threatened,” Boggess said.

Using a two-way radio, Becker contacted survey partner Brian Gill for help, Boggess said. Gill, along with a group of people training hunting dogs nearby, used Global Positioning System coordinates and a bird tracking transmitter to locate Becker.

University College of Natural Resources spokesman Marty Moen said it took Gill roughly 20 minutes to find Becker in the woods.

Becker was transported to an Onamia, Minn., hospital and then airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital.

Becker was in good condition Monday. He suffered a broken leg and some head wounds.

Becker is expected to be released today.

This was the first reported bear attack in Minnesota since 1987, when a female bear attacked two campers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota.

Jason Abraham, an information officer for the DNR, said Becker estimated the bear to be between 200 and 300 pounds. Generally, black bears are 250-300 pounds and stand 6 feet tall.

It is not uncommon for black bears to be found in that area of Minnesota, Abraham said.

DNR Officials estimate there could be four to six bears in that wildlife area.

Brad Unangst welcomes comments at [email protected]