TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) – Struggling desperately to escape a black bear that was mauling her on a dirt trail in northern Michigan, 12-year-old Abby Wetherell feared the worst.
“I was just thinking, `This is it, I’m not going to live, I’m going to die right here,'” Abby told The Associated Press in an interview Monday from her home, where she was recovering from deep cuts to her left thigh and back. “I was really worried about my family, to think they would find me like that.”
The seventh-grader was attacked as she jogged at dusk Thursday near her grandfather’s cabin in a wooded area just outside Cadillac, about 200 miles northwest of Detroit.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has set traps, hoping to capture and euthanize the animal so it can be tested for diseases.
On Saturday night, DNR officers killed a 330-pound bear about 2 miles away after a man shot and wounded it. The carcass was sent to a lab in Lansing to see if its DNA matches fur and saliva samples taken from Abby’s clothing, though paw prints where she was attacked suggest that bear might have been smaller.
Wildlife experts don’t know caused the bear to attack Abby, who said she often jogs in the area.
She had been sitting watching the sunset at her grandfather’s house when she realized it was time to go back to her home nearby. She set off at a trot and suddenly she spotted the bear.
“It was running toward me,” Abby said. “I ran as fast as I could, but it got me and took me down. … It clawed me pretty bad, then it kind of went off. So I got up and started running again, and it came back and got me again.”
Knocked down a second time, she reached up to pet it: “I was … thinking maybe if I pet it, it would like me. But that didn’t work.”
Abby recalled hearing that playing dead might stop a bear attack. DNR officials say fighting back is a better tactic, but in this case her strategy may have paid off.
“It kept looking back at me, but then it just ran off,” she said.
A neighbor heard Abby’s screams, notified her parents and got her to a safe spot. She was flown to Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, where she received 100 stitches.
Abby was released Sunday. A state trooper who lives nearby provided an escort to her home and a crowd of cheering well-wishers welcomed her with signs and balloons.
Although on crutches and in pain, she said she’s doing well.
“I’m here and I’m happy,” she said. “Yes, I’ll go back to the cabin … but I won’t go back there by myself.”
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