A huge hibernating male black bear was killed Nov. 2nd in southern Chippewa County when it was hit by a combine.
Neil Schlough of Brimley was harvesting corn in a field on the Pinehurst Farm at about 7 o’clock that evening a few miles north of the Mackinac county line, just off of South Maple Road , or about 5 miles north of Kinross.
The bear was denning in the field, having dug a hole about a foot deep to lay in and pulled in debris from the corn stalks in on top of itself.
According to his wife, Phyllis, Neil came upon the bear with the outside row of his combine head and drove the outside snout into the animal’s neck and shoulder and pushed it about six or seven feet.
She said Neil felt the combine strike something and the outside snout was pushed up into the air (the combine wasn’t damaged).
“He stepped out of the combine and saw that he had hit an animal,” she said. “At first he thought one of our dairy steers over there had gotten out, went in the corn field, ate too much corn and died.”
But it didn’t take long for Neil to realize it was a bear, but it did take longer to realize how big it was. She said he called her and told her he thought it weighed about 300 pounds.
The DNR was called immediately and Conservation Warden Jim Cleven responded.
A skid steer was taken to the field, and the bear was lifted up so that it could be dressed out.
“With the lights … we could see that it was a pretty big bear,” Phyllis said. “But we had no idea until the locker plant put it on a scale that it weighed as much as it did.”
The bear was taken to the Soo Locker Plant to be prepared for mounting. It was there that the animal was first weighed and measured.
Field dressed, the bear weighed in at 618 pounds and measured 7 feet from head to tail.
The Schloughs were told at the locker that they could add 80 to 100 pounds, depending on the size animal, to reach an approximate actual weight.
“So we figure that bear had to weigh at least 700. We figure 700 to 720,” Phyllis said.
It’s too early to tell if the massive animal will break any records since the skull has to be dried for 60 days before it can be scored.
Phyllis says they believe it has the potential to break the state mark and will probably break the Chippewa County record.
More common DNR wildlife specialist Jess Carstens said, “This is a thing that, for whatever reason, is happening quite regularly that [bears] are denning up in the middle of fields and corn fields seem to be particularly common due to the amount of debris from harvesting the corn that’s on the ground. There’s a little more stuff to pull in on top of them as they snuggle into the hold that they’ve dug.”
Phyllis reported that they frequently see bears on their land. And she said she recently saw a sow and cub in a corn field that was being harvested.
After paying $75 to keep the bear, Neil is having the bear full-body mounted by Tom Persons, owner of TP Taxidermy.
“He’s hardly ever had time to hunt or fish or anything because of farming,” Phyllis said of Neil. ” And so, he’s going to keep the bear, and he’s going to have it mounted. He’s really proud of his trophy.”
She said they were told by Persons that he’ll have to use a grizzly bear form to mount the bear because there aren’t black bear mounts big enough to do the job.
Person reportedly also believes the bear to be 15 to 20 years old, but a tooth will be pulled during the mounting process to determine its age..
According to Wikipedia.com, male bears can reach 660 pounds, but exceptionally large males can weigh up to 800 pounds.
Phyllis said Neil was recently trying to come up with a name for the huge animal that will soon occupy a large amount of space somewhere in their home.
“I thought this was kind of funny. He said, ‘I’m going to name that thing Hercules.’ … I thought Hercules for that bear was a good name.”