Back in my newspaper days, there was a standing cliché about what constitutes news: “If a dog bites man, that’s not news. However, if a man bites a dog, now that’s news.”

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

A new twist was added recently when a woman in Porter, Maine, confronted a black bear that had been having a dustup with her family dog. In an attempt to run interference for her threatened dog, Lynn Kelly, 64, challenged the bruin, which stood up before her. Kelly punched the bear in the nose.

Now that’s news.

The bad news is that the bear bit the woman on the hand and left serious puncture wounds in her wrist, which required hospitalization. No joking matter. She could have been hurt much worse.

Her words: “And right behind him (her dog) was the bear. And the bear looked at me, and I looked at the bear. I think we both scared each other.”

According to a news report, the woman said she tried to look big and yell and scare the bear, but it didn’t work. It kept coming toward her, so she punched it. That’s when it bit her in the hand and wrist.


The Maine Fish and Wildlife folks are characterizing the punch as an act of “provocation” upon the bear. Although punching a bear might not, in hindsight, have been a wise move, what would you do? She says the bear kept coming at her and charged her bluff.

Experts teach us to always confront an aggressive critter and never, ever run away from it. Kelly was on the right track, at least until she sucker-punched the sow in the snout.

In Maine, unlike grizzly bears in the West, black bear attacks on humans are hardly commonplace. As a bear hunter, my experience has taught me that, in general, our bears are as wary of humans as any critter in the Maine woods.

Although bear encounters in the state are rare, there have been some.

In the late 1800s, midwife Grammie Beals was returning to her farm in Carthage after delivering a neighbor’s baby. It was dark. The midwife was in a horse-drawn carriage accompanied by a young girl, one of her many daughters. A black bear from nowhere spooked the horse and overturned the carriage. Both of the carriage occupants were mauled by the bear. The woman survived with permanent facial scars, but the youngster succumbed eventually to her injuries. “Momma,” the girl told her mother before she died, “The bear hugged me.”

We hope Lynn Kelly’s wounds heal. The bear was captured a few days later. It was then euthanized, because, as Fish and Wildlife spokesman Mark Latti explained, “this bear had lost its fear of humans.”

Meanwhile, act of provocation or not, we can’t help but admire the Porter woman for sticking up for her dog and standing her ground. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to take a swing at an oncoming black bear.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, an author, a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. Contact him at

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