Bill Vagts, 68, had just let his corgi, Darla, out of her pen Tuesday when a black bear emerged from the deep woods around his home near Isabella, Minnesota.
Before Vagts could register what was happening, the bear pounced on Darla.
“He had his jaws on her stomach and her throat,” Vagts told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Her eyes were as big as saucers.”
Vagts keeps a shotgun by his door and carries a pistol, but told the newspaper he had no time to think about shooting the bear.
“If I had thought about it for 2-3 seconds, I would have watched that bear tear my dog apart,” Vagts said. “I run toward the bear on his right and grab the bear around the neck with both of my arms and pulled him up off my dog.”
The bear, an adult black bear weighing around 150 lbs., bit Vagts on the abdomen, the Star-Tribune reported. He released his grip on the bear, which fled. Vagts and Darla are both recovering, and Vagts is undergoing rabies shots as a precaution.
His wife, Gail, came upstairs to find Vagts washing his bite wound in the sink, she told the Duluth News Tribune.
“I go ‘What on Earth happened?’ And Bill just turned to me and said, ‘I just wrestled a bear,’ ” Gail Vagts said.
The bear lumbered away down the road, where it attacked two carpenters working on a cabin, reported KBJR, injuring one of the men. A Lake County sheriff’s deputy later tracked the bear and fatally shot it.
Cheri Zeppelin of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources told the Duluth News Tribune that experts are trying to determine why the bear, a young male, wasn’t hibernating.
“This is highly unusual behavior for a wild animal that generally avoids contact with people,” Zeppelin said. Vagts told the newspaper that he suspects the bear was starving.
On reflection, Vagts admits that wrestling an angry bear may not have been the best idea.
“In hindsight, now I look back, I think when I had him down like that and I was holding him, he could have so easily bit higher,” he told the newspaper, motioning to his neck. “In light of what he did over at the neighbor’s, it could have been different. But fortunately, we’re all OK.”