The unusual bear attack, in midwinter Minnesota, would have been a perfect reason to use a defensive firearm.
Instead, the unarmed dog owner went hand to hand with the bear, and was bitten on the abdomen.
ISABELLA, Minn. — Seeing his dog pinned to the ground in a black bear’s jaw, William Vagts ran to the bear, threw his arms around its neck and tried to pull the bear backward. “I didn’t even think. I just reacted. … I just held him for just a few seconds, which is a long time to hold a bear by the neck,” Vagts, 68, said as he knelt in the snow and circled his arms to re-enact what took place in his front yard on Tuesday morning. Letting go of Vagts’ 2-year-old corgi Darla, the bear turned around to bite Vagts in the abdomen before fleeing from the yard. The entire encounter with the bear was over in a minute, he said.
Bill Vagts keeps a loaded shotgun by the door and sometimes wears a holstered pistol. But Murphy was looking over Vagts shoulder on 19 December. He did not have his pistol and the shotgun was too far away.
Vagts keeps a loaded shotgun by his front door and wears a sidearm at times, but “there was absolutely no time to think about” shooting the bear. “If I had thought about it for 2-3 seconds, I would have watched that bear tear my dog apart.
The bear left Vagts, looking for easier prey. It attacked two carpenters building a garage a hundred and fifty yards away. The were running a power saw and never saw the bear until it was attacking. They were too tough for the bear, although one was bitten in the process.
Daniel Boedeker, 58, used a six foot level to wack the bear, breaking the instrument in half. The bear stopped attacking his partner, 54 year old Gary Jerich. The bear turned its attention to Boedeker, knocking him down and biting him on the arm.
Jerich then returned the favor, pounding the bear on the head with a piece of siding. He broke a wooden saw horse over the bear's head. At this time Boedeker was on the ground, kicking at the bear's nose and jaws. Jerich grabbed a steel bladed shovel, and hit the bear so hard, between the eyes, the bear was knocked down. The bear ran into the garage.
The carpenters used the time to run to their work van. The bear came after them, but they were able to close the doors and drive away. Then they called 911.
Boedeker and Jerich were partially protected by their winter clothing. The bear only bruised Jerich.
“The bear swung at me and got me in the back of my coat. The claws went through my coat but didn’t go hit the Carharts. I had six layers on that day. So I backhanded it again and Dan came out of the garage with the level and swung it at the bear.
Boedeker, 58, ended up with marks on his left knee, ankle and a bruised toe where the bear tried to bite through his Snow King boots.
His right arm has six lacerations an inch-and-a-half deep that barely missed arteries and tendons.
Man is a weapon using animal. Too bad William Vagts did not have one at hand. He could have saved the carpenters some trouble. A firearm would have done better than their improvised weapons.
Lake County Sheriff's deputy Mike McGreagor and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Officer Sean Williams responded quickly. They tracked the 140 pound, three year old male bear 250 yards from the garage. 150 yards was along a plowed road, the last 100 yards was in foot deep snow into the surrounding forest. They saw the bear lying down next to a tree, from about 30 yards away. The bear looked up when officers approached within 20 yards. They had already decided the bear had to be put down.
Deputy Mike McGregor shot the bear with one round from his issue Remington 1187, with a 2 3/4 inch Federal Premium Tactical HV 00 buckshot load. Deputy McGregor says the load is impressive. The buckshot stays inside six inch patterns at 25 yards. The bear was hit in the head. DNR Warden Sean Williams fired a couple of seconds later with a 12 gauge slug to center mass.
Deputy McGregor told me that the bear just raised its head when they approached it. It was very windy that day. Walking in foot deep snow can be very quiet. I asked if the bear might have been groggy because of being hit over the head with the level, shovel, and saw horse. McGregor said if might have. The level was a sturdy one, wood with metal trim.
Other officers back tracked the bear.
Officials retraced the bear’s footprints in hopes of finding where he lived. They lost the trail amid a mass of wolf tracks more than a mile away from the first attack.
Lake County Sheriff Carey G. Johnson, graciously returned my call. He said that while he was a shooter, he took the advice of the firearm experts at the department. They suggested, as the department firearms were all semi-autos, the shotguns should be semi-auto as well, for commonality of function.
That is why the deputies carry Remington 11-87 12 gauge shotguns. The deputies carry an AR-15 clone in their vehicle as well as the shotgun. Their duty pistol is the Glock 22 .40 caliber.
The necropsy of the bear found it had scaring all around the neck, perhaps from a snare or other item that circled its neck for a long time. It had deformed rear claws, but walked normally. The bear suffered from swelling of the brain, which may explain some of its behavior.
2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30-year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.