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Bear euthanized after biting young girl

A bear who may have bit a Superior child when she offered him a snack Sunday was euthanized to check for rabies. The male bear was in a live trap behind the home at 5902 Cedar Ave. when the 10-year-old girl approached and offered him some chips, ...

A bear who may have bit a Superior child when she offered him a snack Sunday was euthanized to check for rabies.

The male bear was in a live trap behind the home at 5902 Cedar Ave. when the 10-year-old girl approached and offered him some chips, according to a Superior police report. The girl sustained superficial scratches to her right ring finger that were consistent with bite marks, the report stated.

It was decided the bear would be killed.

"We're not positive it was a bear bite," said Dave Ruid, assistant district supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Service, which handles nuisance bear complaints. "We're erring on the side of caution."

Rabies is not common in bears, he said, but it is a disease that you can't take a risk with.

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"It you contract it, it's lethal," Ruid said.

Every year four to five nuisance bears are trapped in Superior and relocated to forested areas.

The trap in South Superior was set after the department received complaints about the bear, a 21?2-year-old male. For the past week, the animal had consistently been seen on the lawn by the family's house during daylight hours.

Made from a section of culvert, live traps have small holes along the side for ventilation and darting the animal.

"Unfortunately, the child placed her finger there," Ruid said.

The department has been handling bear complaints in Wisconsin for more than 20 years. Each year about 500 bears are moved and approximately four bears that are beyond rehabilitation are euthanized.

"This is the first incident we've been made aware of where somebody's been supposedly bitten," Ruid said.

Nuisance bear season runs from the first of May to Labor Day. Statewide, the department handles approximately 1,200-1,500 bear complaints a year. Of those, approximately 75 percent involve a food source that attracts the animal.

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To prevent bears from visiting, residents must cut off their food sources. That includes eliminating wildlife feeding and securing food sources such as garbage, dog food and barbecue grills in the garage.

If the free lunches dry up, Ruid said, the search for food will lead bears back into the wild to "do what bears to best."

He stressed that it needs to be a community-wide effort. If even one neighbor keeps food out, the bear could return.

And he urged caution around live traps containing bears.

"They are wild," Ruid said.

To report a nuisance bear, call 1-800-228-1368.

Maria Lockwood covers public safety. E-mail mlockwood@superiortelegram.com or call (715) 395-5025.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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