Wisconsin Turkey Hunter Encounters Aggressive Bears

NEW RICHMOND, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is investigating a close encounter with two bears on the Betterly Waterfowl Production Area, three miles east of New Richmond.

On May 13, a turkey hunter on Betterly WPA was approached by a yearling black bear and an adult sow. The yearling bear arrived first, coming within 10 feet of the hunter. After yelling at the bear to scare it, the hunter noticed the adult nearby; the yearling bear began to follow the hunter as he was walking away, prompting him to fire a warning shot into the air, which chased the bear off. When the hunter was leaving the area, the yearling bear appeared a second time. The hunter shot into the air again, but the bear did not move off. As the hunter continued to retreat from the area, the yearling and sow trailed him until he reached an open field and was able to run back to his vehicle.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, this type of conflict is unusual and a bear is likely to run away in similar situations.

“In this case, these bears were behaving aggressively by continuing to follow the hunter even after several attempts to scare them away,” said wildlife damage specialist Brad Koele. “Due to the safety risk these particular animals impose, they will be trapped and removed from the area.”

Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture – Wildlife Services received a report of a yearling bear in the vicinity exhibiting little fear of humans when visiting a bird feeder. The homeowner was advised to remove the bird feeders to prevent further conflicts.

Staff from DNR and USFWS are working to post signs at the entrance of Betterly WPA to alert users to the incident and precautions to take around bears.

“When hunting or hiking in areas where bears are present, make noise so the bears know you are there,” Koele recommends. “If a bear gets too close, yell and wave your arms to scare the bear off while backing away from the area. If possible, seek shelter in a vehicle or building and wait for the bear to leave. Never approach a bear.”

Shooting a bear outside of the bear hunting season is illegal unless the bear poses a direct threat to human safety. The local warden should be notified as soon as possible if a bear is shot in self-defense.

The department partners with U.S. Department of Agriculture – Wildlife Services to respond to approximately 800 bear-related complaints reported in Wisconsin each year. Homeowners who are unable to resolve a conflict with a bear should contact the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in southern Wisconsin, and 1-800-228-1368 for properties in northern Wisconsin.