Bear Bites Wisconsin Hunter After Breathing Down His Back 20 Feet up a Tree

A Wisconsin hunter was bitten by a bear that he estimated to weigh 250-300 pounds while perched in a tree stand nearly 20 feet off the ground.

Dalton Roach, 25, from the city of Eau Claire, was hunting for deer in the woods of Trempealeau County on Saturday when he spotted a black bear walking close to his vantage point, local news outlet the Leader-Telegram report.

Roach was excited having never seen a bear before in the wild and took out his cellphone to film the encounter.

"He was just kind of moseying around. He didn't look like he was on any kind of a mission or anything," Roach, who plays professional baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals' Double-A affiliate in Springfield, Missouri, told the Leader-Telegram.

"But when he got to about 20 yards away, he took a left turn and came directly under my tree."

The hunter decided to put his phone away before realizing that the bear was climbing up the tree directly toward his position on the tree stand, which consisted of a platform measuring around four-square feet in area.

"The next thing I know I can hear him right behind me and feel him breathing on my back," Roach said. "Then I feel a paw on my lap. He just kind of left the paw sitting there, so it's not like I wanted to make a big move and make him squeeze."

Next the bear began to bite him on the right side of his back and Roach feared the worst before deciding that he had to take some form of action.

"Right when I thought this might be it, I decided I wasn't going to just go out and it was better to at least try to do something to get out of this situation," he said.

The hunter said that he spun around in order to face the bear and made himself look as big as he could while making lots of noise.

"Luckily, he kind of leaned back, seemed to say, 'What the heck,' and eventually got out of the tree," Roach said.

The bear lingered at the base of the tree for some time before finally wandering off. Once he could no longer see the bear, Roach climbed down from the tree stand and headed for his vehicle.

"I think I still had so much adrenaline pumping that there wasn't tons of pain going on and I could tell there wasn't a lot of blood dripping," he said.

He checked himself in at an emergency department where medical staff treated his wounds. Roach also received a tetanus shot as well as preventative rabies injections that he must continue for the next couple of weeks.

Roach said his wounds were tender but not particularly painful.

"I'm pretty fortunate that it's not some big nasty bite that took off half my back and that I'm still here and able to talk about it today. I'm very fortunate that this whole scenario went the way it did and now I have a heck of a story to tell."

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, there are around 24,000 bears in the state, current estimates suggest.

A spokesperson for the department told Newsweek it is "very unusual" for an unprovoked bear to approach an individual by climbing a tree where a person is hunting from.

"Black bears are generally secretive, not aggressive, and will tend to avoid humans as much as possible. Based on the evidence, the bite in this case was most likely an act of curiosity and investigation and not an act of aggression," the spokesperson said.

Roach acted in the correct way, given the situation he found himself in, according to the spokesperson.

"The hunter observed the bear and did not provoke it. The hunter yelled which caused the bear to go back down the tree and walk off. Bears are curious and have been known to climb into trees with hunters in them to investigate further."

If someone ever finds themselves in a similar situation up a tree stand, the department recommends making noise by yelling at the bear to make it aware of the individual's presence and scaring it away.

According to the department, four people were injured as a result of five separate bear attack reports in Wisconsin between 2013-2018. But the spokesperson said no human fatalities have resulted from encounters with wild black bears in recorded history in Wisconsin.

While bears tend to try and avoid humans, they may act defensively if they are protecting their young or a food source, or become agitated if startled, leading to aggressive behavior.

The department provided the following recommendations for people who encounter a bear while hiking, hunting or camping:

  • Never approach a bear.
  • Talk to the bear or start shouting if it doesn't leave.
  • Raise arms above your head and wave them to appear larger than you are.
  • Slowly back away and don't turn your back on the bear.
  • Always leave an escape route for the bear.
  • Fight back if attacked.

UPDATE 10/22/21, 10:09 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include information provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

A black bear
Stock image showing a black bear in eastern Tennessee. On Saturday, a black bear bit a hunter in Wisconsin. iStock

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