A South Florida man is the first person in at least 40 years to be attacked by a bear in the area, and it all happened in his backyard.
Andrew Meunier was taking one of his Pomeranians, Howie, outside at about 11 p.m. Tuesday. Seconds after stepping outside, Howie growled at something and ran back inside.
“I wanted to know what scared my dog, so I walked back out,” Meunier said.
Three bears were standing a few feet from the back door, which leads out to a grassy area and a pond. Meunier tried to whirl around and run back inside, but he said a massive paw came down on the right side of his face before he finished turning his back on the animals.
He was able to escape and run inside of his home. When he looked at his bathroom mirror, a nightmare looked back at him.
So much blood poured from his wounds, he likened the feeling to standing under a shower nozzle.
Meunier took off his shirt, wadded it up to stop the bleeding and walked up the stairs of his North Naples town home. He then tried to comfort his 7-year-old daughter before calling 911.
“I went into her room and had to wake her up,” Meunier said. “I had to tell her what happened. She initially freaked, but when she saw I wasn’t crying or anything, she calmed down.”
In a 911 call to Collier County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers, Meunier can be heard telling his daughter, Annabelle, that everything would be OK, that he would be OK.
Meunier has an 8-inch scar starting on his hairline and crossing his temple to his cheek. He has smaller cuts under his eye and on his right cheek.
It took four hours in an emergency room and 41 stitches to patch him up.
He spent two nights at his ex-wife’s house recovering before returning to sleep in his own bed Thursday night. He had some serious cleaning up to do when he got home.
“I’ve never seen a murder scene, but it looked like a murder scene,” he said.
Drops of blood were still visible on the back door frame Friday afternoon.
Meunier isn’t in pain and said the cuts to his face didn’t hurt even when he was bleeding. His right cheekbone hurt from the force of the paw, but he has painkillers for that.
What he might feel for a while is some residual worry and fear when he takes his dogs outside.
“One of the times I took the dogs out, a little rabbit jumped,” Meunier said. “I almost jumped out of my shorts.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up a bear trap not far from Meunier’s home in the Amberton Townhomes community across from Gulf Coast High School in North Naples.
Carol Lyn Parrish, a spokeswoman for the FWC, said the agency’s policy is to trap and euthanize any bear that poses a threat to public safety or that has hurt a person.
If any cubs are trapped, the cubs will be relocated, Parrish said.
Tuesday’s incident was the 15th bear attack in Florida since 1976.
“That’s as far back as the data goes,” Parrish said.
Nine of the bear attacks took place in cities along the Panhandle, and the remaining five took place in Central Florida.
Most of the incidents involved humans being surprised by bears and vice versa while walking pets or taking out trash. Two incidents involved people going after bears in defense of pets.
The FWC advises that if you encounter a bear at close range:
- Remain standing upright.
- Speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice.
- Back up slowly toward a secure area. Be sure you are leaving the bear a clear escape route.
- Avoid direct eye contact. Bears and other animals might view direct eye contact as aggressive behavior.
- Stop and hold your ground if your movement away seems to rouse instead of calm the bear.
The FWC advises you not:
- Make any sudden or abrupt movements.
- Run, which could trigger a chase instinct; bears can sprint up to 35 mph.
- Play dead; black bears eat things that play dead or are dead.
- Climb a tree; black bears can climb 100 feet up a tree in 30 seconds.
- Approach or surprise a bear, especially one that might be injured.