Wisconsin Family Fights For Bear Carcass

Leader - Telegram, Bear Hunting Magazine

See News Flash From January 30, 2009 for the original story.

A Wisconsin family has taken issue with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' handling of a large black bear found dead on their farm north of Menomonie in Dunn County, Wisconsin.

Neil and Phyllis Schlough say, contrary to DNR statements, that the bear was killed by a combine while Neil Schlough was harvesting corn. They also want the DNR to return the bear, which was confiscated.

The DNR says the bear, 7 feet long and estimated at 700 pounds or more, died from rifle shots. A North Dakota man has admitted shooting the bear on the morning of Tuesday, November 25, while deer hunting on the Schloughs' land.

A DNR warden sold the bear carcass to the Schloughs for $75 the night of November 26, believing the bear died when Neil Schlough struck it with a combine. The DNR issued the Schloughs a possession tag for the bear, but later confiscated the hide and skull after wardens learned of the illegal shooting.

"We're not accusing the Schloughs of being involved, but had we known the bear was shot we wouldn't have sold them the bear," said David Hausman, DNR warden supervisor in Baldwin.

"They want to retain the bear. That has yet to be determined," Hausman said. "Our preference is that the bear is retained by the state and stays in the community for everybody to see it."

The bear's hide and skull are evidence in a criminal investigation, Hausman said. DNR officials will wait until after the legal proceedings to determine where the bear should go, he said.

The Schloughs say a deal is a deal, and the DNR's interest in keeping the bear has more to do with its size than the fact that it was shot illegally.

"They entered into a legal contract. They transferred ownership to us. We had nothing to do with it being shot," Neil Schlough said. He said neither he nor law enforcement officials realized the bear's size.

After striking the animal, Neil Schlough contacted the DNR. Warden Jim Cleven arrived about four hours later and inspected the bear with a flashlight, Schlough said. "He did a visual walk-around," Neil Schlough said.

Cleven estimated it weighed about 350 pounds, Hausman said. Neil Schlough guessed it was about 300 pounds.

After law enforcement left and the Schloughs lifted the bear with a small tractor, they realized it was unusually large, they said. The following day - Thanksgiving - they put it on a scale at a meat locker in Augusta, and it weighed 618 pounds after field dressing. Its live weight may have exceeded 700 pounds.

Neil Schlough said the bear may have been seriously injured by the shots and may have been paralyzed or in a coma, but the combine delivered the lethal blow. There was fresh blood on the snow, and the bear was bleeding from its nose and mouth.

A bear that had been dead for more than 1 1/2 days would have been stiff and the blood would have been coagulated, he said.

The Schloughs' son, Doug Schlough, who helped field dress the bear that night, said the animal still was warm, which would have been unlikely if the bear had been dead for more than 30 hours in 30-degree November weather. "It was steaming warm," Doug Schlough said.

"Four hours after he hit it, the steam just rolled out of that bear," Phyllis Schlough said.

The bear might have been paralyzed or in a coma from the shots, she said, but the heart still had to be beating to keep the bear that warm in cold weather. "How can the DNR contend it was dead when they didn't even inspect it that night?" she said.

Hausman said the bear could not have survived the rifle shots. Considering the amount of fat and natural insulation of a hibernating bear that size, it's not surprising it still had some warmth.

"We've got a guy who basically shot the bear in the back of the head with a high-powered rifle at close range," Hausman said. "We've got a statement from the shooter that he killed the bear. He shot it once and then shot it a second time to make sure it was dead." An X-ray of the skull showed bullet fragments inside, he said.

Doug Schlough said family members don't hunt but the bear has meaning to them because it lived on their land. "It's more of a trophy animal for us because we helped to raise the animal, along with all the other animals we feed for the DNR," he said.

Phyllis Schlough said they were disappointed in their former neighbors, who allegedly shot the bear. "I hope they prosecute them good. You let them hunt your land, then they shoot a bear and leave it for you to hit in the dark with a combine," she said.

The Schloughs usually let about 30 hunters onto their farm during the gun season, she said, but they now will be more selective. "Some of them will not be hunting, especially the ones who shot that bear," she said.

Go Back