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Orr man protects apple trees from bear

Beryl Novak said the bear tumbled from his apple tree like "a hundred-pound sack of flour." But when he walked up to it, the bear looked up at him. Then it scrambled to its feet and ran off, with Novak's dog, Bucky, in hot pursuit.

Beryl Novak said the bear tumbled from his apple tree like "a hundred-pound sack of flour." But when he walked up to it, the bear looked up at him. Then it scrambled to its feet and ran off, with Novak's dog, Bucky, in hot pursuit.

Novak, 62, lives a mostly quiet life alone in the woods near Orr. He lives largely off the land, and he raises apple trees. He had told Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Troy Fondie that bears were wrecking his trees, breaking off his carefully grafted branches. Novak has cultivated more than 100 varieties of apples on his 50 to 60 apple trees. One tree alone has about 25 varieties, he said. He has strains from Finland, Norway, Canada and Kazakhstan, in addition to Minnesota.

And he doesn't want bears destroying his trees. So the conservation officer told Novak he could shoot any bear that was damaging his apple crop, Novak said. Which is what he did Thursday afternoon.

Now the bear was racing around his property, Bucky hot on its tail. It was clear that Novak's first shot from his .270-caliber rifle had not been lethal. The bear had been 15 feet up in the apple tree, and Novak had aimed for the bear's head.

"He must have moved just as I shot," Novak said.

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The next thing Novak knew, the bear was right in front of him, moving fast, and it didn't appear to be considering a detour.

"I reacted instinctively," Novak said. "I took the rifle up like a hockey stick and smacked it in the mouth with the rifle."

Novak estimated that the bear weighed about 90 to 100 pounds.

"But he looked pretty big when you looked at him eyeball-to-eyeball," he said.

After Novak swatted the bear with his rifle, the bear headed for some tall grass down in an old beaver pond, Novak said. Bucky was still all over the bear, so Novak couldn't risk a shot. Finally, the bear separated itself from Bucky enough that Novak could take a second shot, which dropped the bear in its tracks.

It was only then that Novak noticed some pain in his arm. He pulled up his sleeve to see several lacerations in his flesh.

"I was all scratched up," Novak said. "That bear had laid me open."

Novak and a neighbor field-dressed the bear, and Fondie issued a permit allowing Novak to possess the bear. He gave it to his neighbor.

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Novak washed his wounds thoroughly and administered a topical antibiotic. Novak visited the clinic in Orr the next day, and medical personnel prescribed a course of antibiotics.

Otherwise, things have been pretty quiet in Novak's world. He's been out grouse hunting a few times.

"I've shot three so far," he said. "I just walk until I shoot one, then come back and have it for lunch."

Related Topics: IRON RANGE
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