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BWCA Weather for Ely, Grand Marais, and the Gunflint Trail

September 22, 2003

Grand Marais Woman Survives Bear Attack
By Rhonda Silence, Cook County Star, 9/22/03

At approximately 9:35 p.m. on Tuesday, September 16, Cook County Law Enforcement received a frightening emergency 911 call. A Grand Marais woman had been attacked by a black bear at her residence on Wesley Lane near Devil Track Lane.
Kim Heil-Smith apparently startled two bears, possibly a sow and her cub, who were in the garage when she entered. The overhead door of the attached garage was open and the lights were off. Smith was attacked as she came through the door, not realizing the bears were there.
The bear, trapped between the door and Smith's car ran at her and pushed her back through the doorway and onto the floor. Smith screamed and hit the bear, finally grabbing its head, giving it several good shakes and yelling, "Get out of my house!"
She was bitten several times in the head, chest and legs before the bear left. Smith was alone at the time and made the 911 call herself. "My head was bleeding really bad," she said. But like the bear defending her cub, her first thoughts were of her daughter, Jessi, who was at a Volleyball game. "I actually hung up on 911," said Smith. "I had to make sure Jessi had a ride home and someplace to go before I dealt with all the questions."
Deputies Leif Lunde and John Shenett responded. Lunde went into the house to assist Smith and Shenett stood guard outside, watching to see that the bear did not return. He said he saw no sign of the bears, but it was evident that the animals had been digging in a trash can and had spilled bird seed. The Deputies searched the area around the house and could find no trace of the bears.
Smith was transported to the Cook County North Shore Hospital and treated for over two hours for her injuries. Smith is recuperating at home.
Reached by phone, Smith said she didn't blame the bear. "She was caught. My truck was behind her. I was in front of her. She had no where to go and she was defending her cub."
Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Conrad Tikkala said this is only the second bear incident he had heard of in the past 20 years. The other was an unprovoked attack northwest of Ely on Lac LaCroix.
He said, "These things happen. We get complacent, but we need to remember there are wild animals around us. There is a strong drive to feed to put on fat for the winter."
Tikkala said he would be spending some time in the Devil Track area to determine whether the bear was a continued threat, but guessed the attack was the bear's natural reaction to being startled or feeling trapped. However, he added, "If a bear is destroying property or threatening you, you can destroy it. You just need to let us know."
If you have concerns about a bear in your area, contact Tikkala at (218) 387-1609.

More about Black Bears

Black Bears - What Backpackers Need to Know

Bear Attack by Steve Gillman


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