TRAVERSE CITY — As 12-year-old Abby Wetherell headed toward home from an evening jog on her grandfather’s woodsy property in northern Michigan, a terrifying sight caught her eye: a black bear, which began chasing her.
The bear knocked the girl down twice and lashed one of her thighs with its powerful paws as she screamed for help, then coolly played dead. Her father and a neighbor scared the animal away, and Abby was flown to a hospital, where she was doing well after surgery.
“We’re very proud of the way she handled herself,” her grandfather, David Wetherell, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday. “She’s kind of amazed us.”
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources set traps in the area of the Thursday night attack in Wexford County’s Haring Township, just north of Cadillac, and asked the public to be on the lookout. The county has a well-established bear population but the animals generally avoid humans, DNR wildlife biologist Adam Bump said.
The agency gets occasional reports of females challenging people who get too close to their cubs, he said. But in those cases, the sow usually snaps at the person once or twice and leaves. The bear that went after Abby apparently wasn’t protecting cubs, which made the attack highly unusual.
If the animal is caught, it will be euthanized and tested for rabies or other diseases, DNR spokesman Ed Golder said.
David Wetherell, 66, said he owns about 180 acres with a hunting cabin and a two-track dirt road where Abby often runs. The seventh-grader at Cadillac Junior High School lives nearby with her parents and sister.
Abby was taken by helicopter to Munson Medical Center, where more than two hours of surgery were needed to treat deep scratches on her leg. “She’s in good shape,” her grandfather said.