Combine kills hibernating 700-pound bear By Joe Knight Leader-Telegram staff It was the night before Thanksgiving and Neil Schlough was combining corn when he hit something large and black. His first impression was that one of the steers had gotten out, eaten too much corn and died. Upon closer inspection, he saw it was a big bear that was hibernating in the corn. The impact of the combine killed the bear. It wasn't just any black bear. This one weighed 618 pounds field-dressed and would have weighed 700 to 720 pounds when alive. It measured 7 feet long. The bear is considered quite large by Wisconsin standards, although no information was available on whether it was record size. Black bears typically are 5 to 6 feet long and weigh 250 to 600 pounds, but they have been recorded at nearly 8 feet long and more than 800 pounds. The Schlough farm bear had excavated a depression about 1 1/2 feet deep where it apparently had planned to spend the winter, said Phyllis Schlough, Neil's wife. The farm is in Dunn County about 20 miles north of Menomonie. The Schloughs had a Department of Natural Resources official come out and take a look at the bear, and Neil Schlough arranged to keep it, which required paying the state $75 for the carcass. "He's going to keep the bear because he's never had the opportunity, being so busy farming, to do much fishing and hunting," Phyllis said. "He said, 'I guess I'm better hunting with a combine than with a gun.' " They thought the DNR fee was high because it was more than a bear license costs, she said. "We pay taxes on the land to feed these animals all year long, and that bear caused us some trouble," she said. The combine was not damaged, although the front of the combine pushed the bear about 6 feet, they said. They plan to have a full body mount made of the bear. Because of its size the taxidermist may have to use a form made for a grizzly bear rather than a black bear, Phyllis Schlough said. "I don't have any idea where he thinks he's putting this bear," she said of her husband. The taxidermist estimated the bear's age at between 15 and 20 years but said he would extract a tooth and try to get a more precise age. On Thanksgiving Day, the Schloughs took the bear to an Augusta meat locker to be skinned. Knight can be reached at 830-5835 or [email protected].