Depending on where you hunt, black bears can range from being a nuisance to a serious danger. Dover, New Jersey police officer Walter Michalski never expected that he would end up stepping on one. The off-duty policeman was hunting for deer in Allamuch State Park on Tuesday when he stepped over a log and right onto a black bear sow with four cubs.
“It was not a bear attack,” Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Larry Ragonese told the Daily Record. “It was an unfortunate confluence of events for both the hunter and the bear.”
Ragonese added that the bear family was tucked away in an alcove under the fallen tree and could not be seen. Naturally, the bear reacted poorly to Michalski’s intrusion and began biting the hunter in the foot. In a report later filed with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, Michalski claimed that he was unable to remove himself from the tree and fired two shots from his hunting rifle at the bear. The seriously injured sow then rolled over two of her cubs, crushing them, before fleeing and eventually being dispatched by Fish and Wildlife personnel. Wildlife officers were able to retrieve the two surviving cubs and transport them to a local wildlife refuge.
Michalski reportedly suffered several puncture marks on his ankle, but no other serious injuries.
Due to the nature of the incident, investigators did not rule the encounter a bear attack, and no charges were filed against Michalski.
Last year New Jersey recorded its first fatal bear attack when a 22-year-old hiker was attacked and killed by a large black bear. Unlike the majority of bear conflicts, investigators believe that attack was a predatory one.
Despite lower bear numbers, bear encounters have been rising in New Jersey. In 2014, wildlife officials witnessed a nearly 55 percent increase in “Category 1” bears, or bears that are considered a threat to public safety and property. The bears also appear to be moving closer to urban areas, resulting in 79 automobile accidents last year.
Image courtesy Mike Bender/US Fish and Wildlife Service.