Special Report: After The Attack - Northern Michigan's News Leader

Special Report: After The Attack

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A special report after the bear attack in Wexford County last year.

Abby Wetherell came face to face with a female black bear near her home.

The attack left her bloody, bruised and in a daze.

She's spent the last six months recovering from the attack, and tonight, she and her family share how they've worked together to cope with the recovery and trauma.

Meredith Barack began, "How does it feel to be back here?"

Abby says, "um, it kind of, it feels good to be back here. I really miss it."

Six months ago, on this very trail, Abby Wetherell came face to face with a bear.
The female black bear attacked the then 12-year-old, leaving her bloody, bruised, and in a daze.

"I was just really worried about that my family was going to find me laying dead on the trail," explains Abby. 

Abby's mother Elizabeth says, "just knowing it's your daughter laying there, it could have easily turned. The doctor said that the laceration on her thigh was just a minuscule, the thinness of your finger nail to her carotid artery, it was literally life and death right there."

That trail is now covered in snow, Abby is now in seventh grade, and it has been a long, hard road getting here. The family had to wrap their minds around what happened that evening in August.

"I think that it took us a while for it to really sink in because it was kind of like being in a dream that you just, you know it happened, but you just feel like your just walking in this dream world that this really couldn't have possibly happened and you kept waiting to wake up but realizing that this isn't a dream it's for real," says Elizabeth.

Meredith asks, "how have the last six months been?"

Abby says, "the first month was terrible because I was in a lot of pain. I had to go through the rabies shots. I had to just make sure because I could walk on it but it really hurt to walk on it and I would have to prop my leg up every night, and then cause I had the drain thing and my mom would have to empty that for me.

The DNR tried to catch the bear after her attack.

Wildlife technician Katie Keen says, "several days, we had several traps out there for weeks after the attack out on the Wetherell property and we had several different baits. We were visiting that location daily to check the bait."

The fact they were unsuccessful still doesn't sit well with Abby, or her mom.

Abby's mom says, "we wanted to have some closure just knowing that the bear was gone. What if that bear is still out there and decides to get somebody else? It makes me very uncomfortable knowing it's still out there."

Abby says, "It still bothers me, but they just said it was a one time thing, it's not going to happen again but I'm still afraid of going back there alone because I don't want it to happen again and I don't want this to happen to anyone else in my family or anybody else in Cadillac or anybody just ever."

But the DNR says they could still find the bear.

"From our standpoint, there's nothing that's telling us the bear was harvested, there's a possibility it might not make it through the winter or something like that. But at this point we have no reason to believe the bear is not still alive.  It would obviously be great if we were able to, or could still have this bear harvested through normal hunting seasons, that would put probably many minds at ease," says Katie Keen.

Abby says she's returned to the trail a handful of times, but never alone.

"We went back and she kind of explained what happened to us and to be honest I was completely surprised. I had it in my head where it had occurred and when she actually showed us it was quite a ways further than I thought that it had happened and so just knowing how much further she had to run, knowing what her injuries were and how severe they were. She had that life instinct and she's going get home, to safety as fast as she can," says Elizabeth.

Abby will wear these scars for life, but she's physically healed. Doctors just gave her the go ahead to be active again.

Abby says, "It seemed like forever because I'm so used to playing sports and being active with my friends and stuff. I was like YES!"

But the emotional would are still very much there.

"Do you ever have nightmares at night?" asked Meredith.

Abby explains, "yeah, I don't really sleep at night, just thinking there's bears in my house but I know there's not, but I think about it a lot and I just wish it would go away."

While Abby says she is glad to have lived to tell this story, she's ready for people to move on. Many just know her as "bear girl" but she wishes people would get to know the real her, a thirteen year old who loves One Direction, playing sports, and spending time with her friends.

"I don't want it to change how people think about me, I just want them to think of Abby, not the girl who got attacked by a bear," says Abby.