Bear bites sleeping man's leg in cabin near Payson


by Jennifer Thomas

Video report by Steve Bodinet

Posted on June 22, 2012 at 9:46 AM

Updated Saturday, Jun 23 at 1:05 AM

Map: Bear attack in Tonto Village

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PAYSON, Ariz. -- A man was attacked by a bear east of Payson and authorities believe it's the same animal that attacked a woman three weeks ago.

The attack happened Thursday night inside a cabin that is under construction in the Tonto Village area.

Jason Amperse, a construction worker building the home, said he was sleeping on a cot with the cabin door open when the bear climbed on top of him and bit him on the leg.

"I was just sleeping and I felt something just kind of pounce on top of me and just bite down," Amperse said. "It felt like a vice just being squeezed on my leg as hard as it can and I screamed at my buddy that something bit me."

The bear ran out and the two men yelled at it to scare it away, but it lingered in the area for about 45 minutes before retreating into the woods.

Amperse had upper and lower teeth marks on one leg and scratches from the bear's claws on his other leg.

Based on the bite mark measurements, Arizona Game and Fish Department officers believe the bear was a large adult male. 

Game and Fish personnel are attempting to track the bear and setting culvert traps in the vicinity to capture it.

“Due to the predatory nature and bold behavior of this bear, extensive effort will be extended to attempt to locate the animal for the public’s safety, which is our top priority,” said Rod Lucas, regional supervisor for Game and Fish.

Preliminary indication is that this is the same bear that attacked a 74-year-old woman on May 31 in the Ponderosa Campground, which is about one mile from Tonto Village. The woman was clawed while she slept in a tent with her husband and dog. She received bruises and a laceration on her scalp.

The campground was closed for a couple of weeks in response to that attack, but the bear was never trapped.

Game and Fish officials said bears are very active during the summer and are attracted to trash bins and campsites with food.

"There seems to be a correlation between extreme drought conditions and the increase in human-bear interactions," said Kevin Bergersen with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Bergersen said this was the ninth known bear attack in Arizona.