A man bitten by a bear Thursday night was back to work Monday, just feet from the site of the attack.
Jason Amperse, 29, is the second of three people attacked by a black bear in recent weeks.
Amperse sustained only minor injuries — two small puncture wounds on his calf and a few scratches. On May 31, a bear took a swipe at a 74-year-old woman sleeping in a tent in Ponderosa Campground, cutting her scalp. Then on Sunday morning, a bear mauled another camper in the same campground, this time nearly killing him before campers could scare it off.
Amperse considers himself lucky, given the recent rash of attacks, but says he is not surprised a bear was in the area.
Amperse, a construction worker with Uptrend Construction, has been staying in an unfinished garage during the week in Thompson Draw II, while he helps build a home.
Just two weeks before the bear attacked Amperse, neighbors in the small community of mostly log cabins northeast of Payson, spotted a bear in the home’s yard, clawing its way into a backyard grill.
Amperse, and fellow worker Lyle Baldwin, had used that same grill just hours before the bear attacked Amperse Thursday.
In addition, Game and Fish employees had removed a bear trap from the home site earlier Thursday, moving it to Ponderosa Campground in hopes of capturing the bear that had taken a swipe at the 74-year-old woman.
Amperse, who also hunts, said he didn’t pay much attention when he heard there might be a rogue bear on the loose. The house he’s building sits on a street named Black Bear Trail, where neighbors frequently see wildlife.
After finishing their work for the day Thursday, Amperse and Baldwin said they settled in for the night, setting up their cots in a detached, half-finished garage. The men left open the sliding glass door to reduce the stifling heat.
Baldwin also had his 357 Magnum at his side.
Sometime around 9:30 p.m., Amperse said he woke up suddenly after he felt something bite him.
“I started screaming like a little girl,” he said.
Baldwin grabbed his flashlight and the men shone it around the room, but whatever had bit Amperse had left. Baldwin shone the light at the sliding glass door and two, dark eyes of a bear stared back.
Baldwin reportedly pointed his gun at the bear, but it started to walk off.
“It didn’t run away, it just walked,” Amperse said.
The bear hung out by the men’s trucks for several more minutes before retreating into the darkness.
When Amperse realized his wounds were superficial, the men decided to catch a few more hours of sleep before calling authorities.
Calvin Schlecht, Uptrend Construction owner, said when he arrived Friday morning, Amperse and Baldwin rushed out to tell him a bear had attacked during the night.
“I didn’t believe them at first,” Schlecht said.
After seeing Amperse’s wounds, Schlecht asked why they hadn’t called for help. The men said they didn’t want to cause a commotion so late at night.
Schlecht called Game and Fish and several employees began searching for the bear.
Hellsgate Fire Chief Gary Hatch urged Amperse to see a doctor, despite him having up-to-date shots.
On Monday, Amperse returned to work in Thompson Draw II, shrugging off his minor battle wounds.
Ironically, Amperse said he saw a large bear walking in the Highway 260 median just on the other side of Thompson Draw II as he drove in Monday.
Game and Fish officials say they have not caught that bear, but employees have killed three other bears.
With bears still on the loose in the area, Amperse said he is not worried.
“I brought my bow with me,” he said.
Asked if he would close the sliding glass door before he went to bed tonight, Amperse hesitated and said probably not because it gets too hot in the building.
Thompson Draw II is located less than a mile, as a crow flies, from Ponderosa Campground.