MINNEAPOLIS -- In a drama Davy Crockett would be proud to boast about, a 68-year-old man living deep in Minnesota's northwoods wrestled an angry bear off his little dog.
Bill Vagts and Darla, his 30-pound Corgi, survived their bite wounds from the black bear, which then lumbered down the road near McDougal Lake and attacked two other men last Tuesday morning. A Lake County sheriff's deputy tracked the animal and fatally shot it soon after, ending the rare bear attack at a time when the animals are supposed to be heeding nature's demand and hibernating.
Vagts had just let Darla out of her pen to "let her run around" and the bear "pounces on her and has her down on her back in two seconds," Vagts recalled last Wednesday. "He had his jaws on her stomach and her throat. ... Her eyes were as big as saucers."
Vagts didn't hesitate. "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 150-pound adult male bear clamped his teeth down on the stomach of the 178-pound Vagts. That prompted Vagts to release his grip on the bear, which fled.
Two-year-old Darla is recovering from "several little bites and one larger puncture," Vagts said. "And her whole back is bruised."
Vagts keeps a loaded shotgun by his front door and wears a sidearm at times, but "there was absolutely 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.
"I love that dog. They are like family."
Vagts, who moved with his wife from Mankato to near Isabella about 18 years ago, said he's encountered black bears many times during canoe trips.
"I've never had a fear of black bears," said Vagts, who is receiving a series of rabies shots as a precaution. "They always run away from me."