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Woman saves choking bear in Wisconsin

by Julie Wroblewski
(The Lakeland Times, Minocqua, Wisconsin)

Black bear

Black bear

A courageous woman didn't think twice when she awoke to find a bear choking to death in her yard. She risked her life dislodging a bone from the animal's throat in order to save it.

As a result of the recreational feeding of deer, squirrels and birds, Patricia Torres of Lake Tomahawk inadvertently invited the company of a sow bear with two cubs on May 17. While investigating the yard in the early morning hours, the sow discovered a cow bone Torres had purchased for her dog, Bogie, from the Lake Tomahawk Market.

Torres was awakened at 5:30 a.m. to the sound of the bear in distress only 15 feet from her bedroom window.

"She was making a really weird gurgling noise like she was choking," Torres said. "When I looked, she was lying down and I could see a lot of saliva."

She called the Oneida County Sheriff's Department, who in turn contacted the Department of Natural Resources. Before warden Jim Jung arrived on the scene, Torres made a repeat call and indicated she was going to take care of the problem herself.

A self-proclaimed city girl who moved from Los Angeles to Madison 13 years ago, then to Lake Tomahawk in March, Torres, 47, hasn't had much interaction with wildlife. She'd never even seen a black bear until she moved here.

In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, she donned a pair of leather gloves, put her eyeglasses on and made her way outside, where she found the bear unresponsive.

"Except she was making a noise like she was trying to get air," Torres said. "So I just shoved my hand in her mouth until I could feel an object, which I grabbed and yanked out. I could tell it was my dog's bone when I got it closer. Thank God I didn't break any of her teeth."

As the sow very slowly recovered, Torres brought her some water.

"She was totally exhausted. I have no idea how long she'd

been there like that," Torres said. "Then the DNR man finally showed up right when she was coming to, so I crept over to his truck to make sure we were all quiet. I didn't want to disturb her anymore."

Jung arrived on the scene shortly after 6 a.m. They continued to observe the bear from inside the residence.

The bear left the yard briefly but re-entered and began looking up a tree.

"That's when I figured out there was probably at least one cub up in that tree," Jung said. "The sow then went up the tree. I recommended everyone vacate the premises and allow the bear time to calm down, gather her family and leave."

Jung estimated the bear to be of average size - 150 to 175 pounds.

"Even at that size, they're so strong, with powerful jaw strength, great muscle mass and a sow bear especially with cubs will be very protective," Jung said. "If she (the bear) had been more alert, she wouldn't have perceived what (Torres) was doing as help.

"It's my hunch that the bear had so little oxygen that she was blacking out."

It could be argued that the entire situation could have been avoided if there had been no food source available on the property.

Jung instructed Torres to cease recreational feeding for 30 days. Torres complied for the time allotted and has begun feeding again.

"I don't mind the bears or the wildlife," Torres said. "We're not gangsters here. I'm allowed give a gallon of corn a day, so that's what I do and I have a salt block. The deer still come around."

Jung said those having issues with bears should stop recreational feeding, remove outdoor garbage, keep a clean barbecue grill with no food refuse on or in it, and take in dogfood dishes at night.

This story was reprinted with the allowance and courtesy of Julie Wroblewski, writer of The Lakeland Times, Minocqua, Wisconsin, where the story was published on August 6, 2010.

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