"I knew the bear was killing him."
Craig Lindstrom could hear his friend Brandon Johnson's "blood curdling screams" from a quarter-mile away as he was being attacked by a black bear; the same animal their hunting partner had shot with an arrow in eastern Pine County, Minnesota, earlier, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
Lindstrom, Johnson and Trevor Nowack set out just after midnight Saturday to find the wounded bear Nowack had shot. Lindstrom, carrying a handgun, was on one side of a swamp. Nowack and Johnson, who just had knives and headlamps, were on the other side, where the duo encountered the bear, the News Tribune reports.
Initially they thought it was heading away, but the roughly 525-pound bear turned and charged at Johnson, knocking him to the ground, and began attacking him – biting his arms, legs and face.
Johnson fought back. He stabbed the bear in the head multiple times until the bear ran off, KSTP says.
This embed is invalid
"He made that thing die because he stabbed it about 20 times while it was chewing on his arm. He kept stabbing it and stabbing it and stabbing it and it was pounding on him," Lindstrom told KARE 11.
When Lindstrom and Nowack were finally able to approach their friend, they had to wipe the blood off his face to see that it was really Johnson.
Lindstrom, a volunteer firefighter with first aid experience, put tourniquets on Johnson's arms and used a ratchet strap "to keep his arms on his body," he told reporters.
Lindstrom and Nowack helped Johnson stand up, and together the trio walked out of the woods. It took them over two hours to get back to their ATVs, where they were finally able to call 911, reports say. The sheriff's office got the call around 3:30 a.m.
Johnson, 44, was flown to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. He had two broken arms, a dislocated wrist and gashes on his body and face. He underwent his second surgery Monday, KSTP says. He was listed in fair condition Monday.
Lindstrom told reporters that Johnson is in good spirits and he'll be hunting again soon.
He and a group of 10 men went back Saturday afternoon to find the bear – it died 50 yards from the site of the mauling from wounds caused by Johnson, KARE 11 says. It took the group about five hours to haul it out of the woods. They're getting the animal mounted.
A Pine County official told the Duluth News Tribune Monday that the incident remains under investigation.
Bear attack stats
Officials with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say black bear attacks are uncommon in Minnesota because the animals are generally afraid of people – there have been about half a dozen black bear attacks in the state since 1987, and only one known attack that was unprovoked, the DNR says.
Tracking a wounded black bear, however, is more dangerous because they may attack if they feel cornered, trapped or surprised, officials told WDIO.
A few months ago, a man in northwestern Minnesota was saved from a bear attack by the family’s black Lab, Toby.
Toby was out with Chris Wacker who was picking mushrooms near his father’s home, when the dog came upon a family of bears. One of the adult bears attacked Toby while Wacker was able to get inside. The dog was severely injured and died a few days later.
Another recent attack happened last summer. A northern Minnesota woman was attacked by an adult black bear after her dog ran after two young bears. The DNR believes the presence of the yearlings led to the attack.