Bear attacks two Ely men

by Nick Wognum -

A bear had to be killed after it attacked two Ely men near McDougal Lake on Wednesday.
The bear had also gone after a dog at a nearby residence and the owner was bit in the abdomen wrestling the bear off his dog.
But it was the quick actions of Gary Jerich that likely saved the life of Dan Boedeker.
The two contractors were building a garage when the 200 pound male bear attacked before 11 a.m.
“I was in the garage cutting a piece of siding and I turned around and saw the bear was right beside Gary, at first I thought it was a big dog. I yelled, ‘Bear!’” said Boedeker.
At that point the bear used its mouth to grab Jerich, 54, by the front of his shirt.
“Gary punched him a few times and I hit him with a six foot level and broke that in half. The bear then came at me and got me on the ground.
“I was on my back kicking it in the face. Gary grabbed a saw horse and hit the bear with it, breaking the saw horse in half. Then he found an iron bladed shovel and hit the bear right between the blinkers. That dropped the bear to his knees and gave us time to get to the van,” said Boedeker.
With deep lacerations on his arm, Boedeker was bleeding in the van but still had to close the doors before they could head to the hospital.
“We had to get all the doors shut and the bear was right there. We literally pushed that bear out of the driveway with the van. He didn’t want to move,” said Boedeker.
The two men called 911 and met the Ely ambulance halfway down Highway 1.
“It was a scary deal. Never in my lifetime would I have expected something like that to happen. The bear never made any noises, it never chopped its teeth. It was as quiet as quiet can be. What instigated him to take after us I have no idea,” said Boedeker.
The quick action of Jerich to hit the bear with the shovel kept Boedeker from suffering greater injuries.
“When he hit the bear it went down and his eyes rolled back. I gotta hand Gary the credit, he got the bear off of me. I don’t think I would’ve been alive if that bear was going to keep going. I couldn’t do anything when it was on top of me. We were both yelling and screaming and it would not leave.”
Jerich said he had just put his tool belt on after their coffee break and was walking back toward the garage after looking at a downed tree in the neighbor’s driveway.
“I came walking back and Dan was inside cutting a piece of siding. I walked toward the van to grab something and I heard Danny yell, ‘Bear!’ I turned around it grabbed me in the front of my coat so I backhanded it in the nose.
“The bear swung at me and got me in the back of my coat. The claws went through my coat but didn’t go hit the Carharts. I had six layers on that day. So I backhanded it again and Dan came out of the garage with the level and swung it at the bear. Then Dan was behind me so I hit the bear with a four foot piece of siding twice in the head.
“The bear knocked Dan down so I grabbed a wooden saw horse and hit it over the head and then I took a plastic heavy-duty shovel, turned it sideways and hit it in the head again. That’s when the bear dropped to its elbows.
“The bear got up and ran past me with its eyeballs going every which way. It ran into the garage and I told Dan we’ve got to get to the van. The bear came back out when we got in the van but the doors were open so Dan had to shut them.
“I was in the driver’s seat with my tool belt still on and I tried to drive at the bear when it was in front of us but there was only five feet before the snowbank. I was able to back the van up with the bear behind us. The last I saw the bear he was walking down McDougal Road,” said Jerich.
Going back to the scene the next day, Jerich followed the tracks and found the bear had walked in to the back of the garage and then came around the side, coming out between the scaffolding and the garage.
“It circled behind us, that’s why Dan didn’t see it either,” said Jerich, who ended up with a sore hand from punching the bear and a jacket with tooth and claw marks in the front and back.
Boedeker, 58, ended up with marks on his left knee, ankle and a bruised toe where the bear tried to bite through his Snow King boots.
His right arm has six lacerations an inch-and-a-half deep that barely missed arteries and tendons.
“Everything works but I have to go in every day to have it repacked. They don’t want to stitch it up until they can make sure there’s no infection,” said Boedeker.
He’ll have to go in for a series of rabies shots but hopes to make a full recovery.
Joining him at Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital was William Vagts, who lives not far from where Boedeker and Jerich were attacked.
Vagts’ two year-old corgi was attacked by the bear as well, just prior to it heading to the construction site.
Vagts wrestled the bear off his dog and ended up with two bite marks in his abdomen. He will receive the battery of rabies shots as well.
The bear was dispatched by a Lake County deputy and Minnesota conservation officer Sean Williams.
“We tracked the bear about 150 yards down North McDougal Lane and then another 80 to 100 yards into the woods, so probably about 250 yards from where the second attack occurred,” said Williams.
“It was laying with its head down, almost balled up like it was trying to stay warm. With the wind we were able to get pretty close. Because of its behavior we had already decided we weren’t going to give it a chance to be aggressive again,” said Williams.
Why the bear attacked the two construction workers is a mystery but it could’ve been attracted to the noise.
“They were actively using a chop saw but it attacked unprovoked and without warning. It will be interesting to find out what the biologists determine when they get done looking at it. The bear looked healthy visually. It was not a yearling, it was two years old at least,” said Williams.
Seeing a bear in late December is strange enough, most have been hibernating for weeks by this time of the year.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this happening before. You hear stories from senior officers about odd things happening. But this is very strange bear behavior,” said Williams.
Boedeker spent Thursday fielding calls from the media and recalling the attack.
“All I can say is keep your eyes open in the woods, you never know what your going to see, even in the middle of December,” said Boedeker.
“All I care about is that we’re okay but the next time I take a walk in the woods I’m sure I’ll think about what happened,” said Jerich.