Black Bears: Sometimes Cute, Always Potentially Deadly

Good morning. This is a story from July 8, 1948 63-years ago this past Wednesday CHIPPEWA COUNTY– A black bear came into the yard of the Mission Hill home of Marquette National Forest tower man Arthur Pomranky, grabbed his three-year-old daughter Carol Ann, and carried her away.

The girl’s body was recovered two hours later, and a quarter-mile away near a creek by bear hunter/tracker Alex Van Leuven of Brimley and his labrador retriever Snowshoe.

iroquois Point fisherman Wayne Weston had just returned ashore from tending nets when he and brother Vico were summoned to join what became a 100-man search party (media acccounts of the day called the gaggle a “posse.”) Weston encountered the bear returning to the body and killed it with five bullets (the final pair of the make-sure kind).

Soo veterinarian Dr. C.D. Logsdon found parts of the child’s body in the animal’s body during necropsy. This is the only fatal bear attack in Michigan that I’m aware of and why the girl was taken has never been determined. Tests showed the bear was not rabid, nor did it have injuries or “abnormalities” that might have accounted for its behavior.

One theory, from Frank MacDougall (1948 deputy of Ontario Lands and Forests), was that the chilld was mistaken for a pig. Mr.MacDougall told reporters, “Bears are unable to distinguish between a young child and a pig.” How the man came to know this is not reported. And reports don’t tell us the family kept pigs

Surely a sad and wrenching story, but there’s more to the nightmare.

Mid-afternoon that day (@1430) the child’s mother and a friend were in the kitchen, feet from Carol Ann, who was playing with her dolls at the bottom of the three steps up to the porch from the yard. The house was near the fire tower and beside a wooded embankment.

Mrs. Pomanky’s back was to the screen door; her neighbor was ironin The two women heard a cry and turned to see Carol Ann with her hand on the screen, and a bear on the steps behind her. They watched in horror as the animal grabbed her by the head, pulled her out into the yard, dropped her there, picked her up by the arm and dragged her over the embankment. The girl’s mother grabbed her husband’s 32.20 revolver, but was too shook up to get it loaded, much less discharge it.

Try to imagine living the rest of your life with THAT memory.

We rarely read of bear attacks in our state, in part because newspapers are disappearing and becoming smaller, and i’m not aware of any government agency that records and tracks such data. But i suspect there are more blood-drawing 9no necessarily fatal) encounters than we think. I remember from high school days a pulpie from Engadine having a scrap with a bear and barely [nip] escaping witrh his life. I also remember reports of two attacks in the Crawford/Oscod County area, one involving a bear in an apiary, and another where a bear snatched up someone’s foo-foo dog (smaller than a football). No fatalities in either bout (including the mutt).

i read in an old book that 18/20 people killed by black bears were instances of predation.14 of the 18, like Carol Ann Pomranky, took place in daytime. By contrast most fatal grizz attacks are at night.

50% of the 14 predation victims were under-18; five of them were under-10. Nine attacks involved adults and the authors, whose names I didn’t write down, referred to three cases similar to Pomranky.

This week i found an article datelined CALGARY, BC about a study by the U of Calgary’s Stephen Herrero whose research has led him to conclude that black bear encounters are on the rise and more likely to occur in Canada or Alaska (rather than in the lower 48 states). Herroro writes that very few attacks involve sows protecting cubs. Herrero collected data covering 1900 – 2009.

The biggest surprise, according to Herrero, was the disproportionate participation by males in predatory attacks.

From 1900 – 2009 63 people were killed in 59 black bear attacks in the U.S. and Canada, 86 percent of these since 1960. The most serious attacks are 3.5 times more common in Canada and Alaska, perhaps, the researcher speculates, because northern bears are “more food stressed.”

There are an estimated 900,000 black bears roaming North America (15x the grizz population). Michigan’s bear population is in the range of 18-20,000 animals, 90% of them in the U.P.

Herrero advises us to ‘act aggressively in a predatory situation. The less you do, the more confident and dangerous the bear becomes.

We might speculate that since 1960 increasing numbers of people hav been encroaching bear territories, including building houses, etc. This undoubtedly increases man-bear contacts.

Our friend Jen Gabriel about six years ago was walking the North Country Trail near her Lake Superior home (@ 300 yards north of where i am writing this morning), She had her three daughters with her: Arie, Anastasia, and Alexandra. Alex, the eldest was walking behind mom, who was carrying Arie, and holding Ann’s hand. Alex said, “Hey mom, there’s a bear and mom thought “yeah sure’ but turned around and sure enough a bear was on the trail yards behind them. Jen had to take the kids onto the open beach below to get the animal to turn away. Might just have been a curious young creature. But this place is @ 50 miles as the core flies from Mission Hill.

If you are out in our woods, you need to be bear-wise.

Friends Jay and Donna arrive this afternoon, God and his bride, the lovely Laurie in three weeks, same week as Bullsido camp. First time in 35 I will have missed camp, but it doen’t feel right to leave Lonnie alone. Her radiation knocked her on her butt, but she is getting stronger as summer goes on. Over.

Sort of Back In Service

Howdy from the UP, Deer Park area [north of Newberry, @ 30-some miles. Been here since mid-May, hunting agates, fishing, exploring, and most of all, writing. We finally broke down and bought cheap cell phones that work from the cabin. And we bought an iPad, which seems to work when it is in the mood, and there is no wind (which here is practically never). This will be my first attempt at doing a blog from the cabin. Without my son there is no way to upload pix now, so words will have to suffice. Loads of interesting stuff to share, but will keep this first remote upload brief. End of this month is my 50th high school reunion and we’re looking forward to that. The big barrier to blogging is the new keyboard, which by any writer’s professional guage ia pure junkola. Keyboard was made for soft-handed Munchkins with itsy bitsy diggies.
While up here, I’ve done some unusual things with the DNR District 2 (and some Lansing) folks. We have a wolf living in the swamp across the lake and have heard it a half-dozen times. We hear from or five coyote packs on an irregular basis, and same for the loons. We have a resident black bear a half-mile east of us and have seen three others, one of them an impressive galoot. Seeing about 2 deer a day. Last two years we saw amost none, and there seem to be lots of fawns about, Wx has been Yooper regular, with morning porch ice in May, coupla hail deposits, and some hot and humid south winds bringing in clouds of carnivorous stable flies, that bite even through wool socks, and leave bloody wounds. Mosquitos, noseeums, black flies, and deer flies not bad at all. Hope you are all having a good summer.
Remember, Force of Blood will be out Sept. 1. Will have inaugural signing at Snowbound Books in Marquette, Saturday Sept 3 (check their site for the times).
Signing At Deer Park Lodge store, Sept 17, which coincides with the Rock On! agate show Sept 17-18. The signing event will start 11 a.m. an go to 2.p.m.,
There will be readings/signings in Escanaba and Newberry,details here when arrangements are set, Will be in Dearborn at Great Lakes Booksellers Oct 16, and at a Kalamazoo event with KAzoo Books later that same week. Yesterday we attended the memorial service at the St. Ignace Methodist Church for Dorothy Vairo, who passed away earlier this year, just short od her 95th and in pretty good health until her last six months. She once royally chewed my ass for calling her beloved U.P,. a wilderness. She never hid her opinions, or her love. She will be missed by all whp were privileged to know her. All from da YOOP for now. Be safe. Over,.