Bear attack near Payson sparks Arizona Game and Fish search

PAYSON, AZ - An Arizona man who was sleeping on a cot inside his cabin was injured after a bear bit his lower leg early Friday morning. Officials are now working to determine if the same bear is behind a previous attack.

The bear entered the cabin, which was unfinished and under construction, and climbed on top of a man who was sleeping on a cot, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

"I thought it was a skunk or coyote or something," said Jason Amperse, who survived the attack.

Biting his leg through his pajamas, Amperse yelled and scared the bear off, but the bear stayed near the area for another 45 minutes.

"[It felt like] a real sharp pain, like a vice squeezing my leg," Amperse said.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department suspects that the bear was a large adult male, judging by the measurements of the bite marks.

"It's so scary," Amperse said of the attack. "You don't know what's going on."

Officials are working to track the bear and capture it. In the event they find the bear, they will be forced to lethally remove it because of the aggressive, predatory behavior it exhibited.

Officials said it is important to stand your ground if you encounter a bear.

"If you do get into a situation where the animal is starting to attack, at that point, fight's on," said Kevin Bergersen with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "Do everything in your possible power to fend off that attack."

Bergersen told ABC15 running away won't do much good.

"'Food' will run, people fight, so fight [the bear] off," he said.

According to a news release, bears are attracted to areas with humans because they can often find food, gardens and trash bins, especially because of the state's drought and scarce food.

The incident occurred in the Thompson Draw II complex east of Payson.

On May 31, a woman was clawed by a bear at a campground approximately one mile from Tonto Village, but her injuries were not life-threatening.

The bear that clawed the woman was never trapped despite efforts from wildlife officials.

Recreationists should always be aware of their surroundings and secure any food, trash or other products that bears could find appealing, authorities say.

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