Sleeping hunter wakes up to black bear biting his head in central Idaho

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BOISE, Idaho  — A hunter camping in central Idaho woke up when a black bear started biting his head, and he couldn’t get medical care for three days because he was in such a remote wilderness area.

Idaho Fish and Game officials said in a statement Wednesday that 29-year-old Stephen Vouch of Boise had been hunting bighorn sheep with friends and awoke to the attack at 2 a.m. Friday, which was the 14th day of a 16-day trip, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported.

Vouch and his childhood friends went to bed around 10:30 p.m. after rafting, he told the Tribune. He was lying under a tarp and felt the bear’s teeth dig into his head. When he awoke, the bear was “huffing and puffing” over him.

An employee for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game inspects the bear's teeth. It was tested for rabies. (Photo: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

An employee for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game inspects the bear’s teeth. It was tested for rabies. (Photo: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

Vouch yelled, which startled the bear. One of his friends shot the young male bear with a .45-caliber handgun. Vouch then shot and killed the wounded 5-foot, 6-inch bear when it climbed a tree.

Vouch received first aid, then the hunting group rafted downstream before flying out of the rugged Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness on Sunday.

He was treated Monday at a hospital for cuts to his head and released.

“It’s a very humbling situation, and I feel really lucky,” Vouch told the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Vouch and his friends had the appropriate licenses to hunt bears, the Tribune report.

Stephen Vouch, 29, received a wound to his head after a bear bite him in his sleep. (Photo: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

Stephen Vouch, 29, received a wound to his head after a bear bite him in his sleep. (Photo: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

The bear tested negative for rabies. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game did a brain extraction to determine the bear was healthy. The department also determined that it was 3 to 7 years old and weighed up to 275 pounds.

It is not clear why the bear entered the camp because the hunters had stored their food properly, state wildlife manager Jon Rachael told the Associated Press. He said the bear could have become accustomed to finding food from humans or had never encountered people and chomped on Vouch our of curiosity.

If the bear had intended to kill, the attack would have been much more violent, Rachel said, adding that it’s been a tough year for bears because the destructive wildfires have made for a bad berry season, which is a key food source for them.