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Girl plays dead, survives bear attack in Michigan

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — As 12-year-old Abby Wetherell headed toward home from an evening jog on her grandfather’s woodsy property in northern Michigan, a terrifying sight caught her eye: a black bear was chasing her.

The bear knocked the girl down twice and lashed one of her thighs with its powerful paws as she screamed for help, then coolly played dead. Her father and a neighbor scared the animal away, and Abby was flown to a hospital, where she was doing well after surgery. ‘‘We’re very proud of the way she handled herself,’’ said her grandfather, David Wetherell, by telephone Friday.

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The Michigan Department of Natural Resources set traps in the area just north of Cadillac. The county has a well-established bear population but the animals generally avoid humans, DNR wildlife biologist Adam Bump said.

If the animal is caught, it will be euthanized and tested for rabies.

David Wetherell owns about 180 acres with a hunting cabin and a two-track dirt road where Abby often runs. The seventh-grader lives nearby with her parents and sister.

Around 9 p.m., she noticed the bear and picked up speed, but the bear pursued and caught her. Abby was taken by helicopter to Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, where more than two hours of surgery were needed to treat deep scratches on her leg. ‘‘She’s in good shape,’’ her grandfather said.

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