"Tough" 12-year-old survives bear attack near Cadillac

10:52 PM, Aug 16, 2013   |    comments
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  • Abby Wetherell. (Courtesy photo)
  • Abby Wetherell - attacked by a bear near Cadillac

CADILLAC, Mich. (WZZM) -- "Tough." That's how a family describes a twelve-year-old Cadillac girl who managed to survive two attacks by a black bear.

That bear is still out in the wild, according to the DNR, but Abby Wetherell is still recovering at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, according to her family.

It was just supposed to be a quick run, conditioning for the 12-year-old, dedicated soccer player. But around 9 pm, a mile away from Abby's grandfather's house, in a wooded area along a dirt trail...

"She seen the bear out of the corner of her eye," said her grandfather, Dave Wetherell.

He says the bear knocked her over and started mulling on her thigh. She fought back.

"And started running away again. And he come up behind again and knocked her down. "

"Her instinct was to get away, she did her best," said her mom, Elizabeth Wetherell. She says Abby did the right thing next; she started screaming. The neighbors came running, hollered for her dad, and ran to Abby.

"And the bear was already gone. They had scared the bear away," said Dave.

Elizabeth got the call and rushed over.

"Panic, you don't know what to do but you immediately get to her and make sure she's OK and you just say lots of prayers," Elizabeth told us.

"Two large gashes by her thigh, we know there's an artery by that area and she was bleeding quite a bit. It was very deep, very wide," she said.

She was flown to Munson Medical Center and is in good condition, says her mom.

Now the DNR is setting live traps, trying to capture and then euthanize what they believe is a 150 to 200 pound black bear. A spokesperson tells us they need to check it for disease, and says they don't know if it's a male or female, because there's no tracks to show if cubs were close by. Dave says he's seeing black bears more frequently in his neck of the woods, but attacks?

"The DNR told me it hasn't happened in this area since 1950," he said.

He says Abby isn't scared to go back out on the trail.

"She's a hunter, she likes the woods, she's just a very tough, kind person," he said.

Abby obviously panicked and ran, which the DNR says you should try not to do.

Instead, they recommend to make yourself look bigger than you are, talk to the bear in a stern voice, then slowly back away.

Do not play dead, or turn your back.

If you're running in an area with lots of bears, like Abby, carry pepper spray.

Or if you're camping, keep your pots and pans handy. Pounding them is an easy way to create noise, which scares them off. Plus, if you are attacked, these tools can help you fight back.

It's unclear why the bear attacked the girl, Ed Golder with the DNR told our partner, the Detroit Free Press.

"That's an area of great interest," he said.

The attack appears to have been unprovoked, and Golder said there is no evidence of bear cubs in the area.

Golder said he is gathering information on the number of bears in Michigan as well as on previous bear attacks.

"There have been bear attacks, but they're a very rare occurrence," Golder said.

Black bears are the only bears believed to be living in Michigan. There are up to 10,000 black bears in Michigan, and most live in the UP.

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