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‘Dead’ bear bites Letcher Co. man


An injured black bear bit a Letcher County man who found it lying in the road and thought it was dead, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The incident happened about 1 p.m. Saturday near the Dollar General store in Cumberland. John Hast at Fish and Wildlife Resources in Frankfort said the bear had been hit by a car and its hind legs were paralyzed.

“A good Samaritan, for whatever reason, tried to move it out of the road and it bit him,” Hast said.

The man, Ricky Thornsberry, of Gordon, suffered bites to his legs, but refused treatment, Hast said. He did not want to talk to a reporter.

Hast said the man was taken to the hospital by ambulance later that night. The bear was killed because of the extent of its injuries from being struck by the car, Hast said.

He said bear was about a twoyear old male and weighed 107 pounds. A typical adult male weights 200-350 pounds, and can range as high as 500 pounds. Females weigh about half as much as males, usually reaching up to 200 pounds.

This is the first attack by a bear in eastern Kentucky since 2010, when a hiker in the Red River Gorge area got too close to a bear while taking pictures and was bit on the calf.

Hast said when problems happen between a human and a bear, it’s usually because people have been feeding the bear, or get too close to it. Hast borrowed a slogan from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to describe the results of those encounters.

“A fed bear is a dead bear,” he said. “Whether they have to be euthanized or they cross the roads and get hit, feeding them is not good for them.”

The same goes for approaching bears too closely, especially if they’re hurt.

“If you find an injured bear, call us or call local law enforcement,” Hast said.

He said bears are common in eastern Kentucky, especially in Letcher and Harlan counties.

“You go into that area between Harlan and Whitesburg, and it’s the core,” he said. “Cumberland, Benham and Lynch is probably the epicenter for bears in Kentucky.”

Fish and Wildlife used to try to relocate bears that become a problem, but Hast said there’s no place in the state that is big enough to put a problem bear for long enough for it to revert to its wild nature and leave people alone. Bears that keep hanging around homes now are trapped and euthanized, Hast said.

“We’ve more or less tried to move away from that (relocating bears),” he said. “Our motto now is we want to solve the underlying problem. If a bear is getting into your garbage, secure the garbage. If you’re feeding a bear, stop feeding it.”

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