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
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