Dalton Roach is a 26-year-old pitcher for the Springfield Cardinals, the Double-A affiliate for the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Like many pro ballplayers, when baseball season ends for him, that means hunting season starts.
Roach was reportedly bow hunting on his family’s property outside Eau Claire, Wisconsin, last year when a run-in with a black bear turned dangerous and the bear bit him on his back.
Though he was hunting for deer, he was excited to see a bear in the wild. As the bear rustled around the field below his tree stand, he began filming with his cell phone:
“He was just kind of moseying around. He didn’t look like he was on any kind of a mission or anything. But when he got to about 20 yards away, he took a left turn and came directly under my tree.
I thought, ‘OK, it’s time to put the phone away. I want to be hands-free now.”
The bear then started climbing the tree that Roach was perched in, and that’s when things got nerve-racking. The bear quickly made it’s way 20-feet up the tree and was directly behind Roach, who was sitting on a 4-foot square platform.
“The next thing I know, I can hear him right behind me and feel him breathing on my back. Then I feel a paw on my lap.
He just kind of left the paw sitting there, so it’s not like I wanted to make a big move and make him squeeze.”
Then it happened.
The bear bit him.
He felt a pain in his back and could fear his gear tightening around him and he realized the bear was casually chewing on him. At that moment, he had to do something to get away from the bear. Luckily, he was wearing a safety harness in the tree stand, so he didn’t have to worry about falling out of the tree while trying to escape the bear.
“Right when I thought this might be it, I decided I wasn’t going to just go out, and it was better to at least try to do something to get out of this situation.”
He then tried to throw an elbow at the bear and spun around, putting him face to face with what he estimated to be a 250-300 pound bear. Roach then remembered stander black bear safety protocol, tried to make himself appear as large as possible, and started yelling at the bear with everything he had.
It worked, and the bear backed down.
“Luckily, he kind of leaned back, seemed to say, ‘What the heck,’ and eventually got out of the tree.”
As the bear started to climb down, Roach called a buddy nearby, put the phone on speaker, and asked him to drive his truck towards his hunting spot if he heard him yelling again.
The bear started walking away, and Roach took a deep breath. But then the bear stopped and stared him down again.
“He didn’t look like he was coming back, but I was still uncomfortable because he was looking at me a little too intently and had just been up in the tree gnawing on me.”
At that point, Roach nocked an arrow and decided he was going to let it fly in self-defense if the bear approached him again. Fortunately, though, the bear wandered off into the woods in the opposite direction of where Roach’s truck was parked.
He waited a bit once the bear was out of sight, and then he climbed out of the tree and made his way back to the truck. He knew the bear bit him, but he knew the injuries were not horrible.
“I think I still had so much adrenaline pumping that there wasn’t tons of pain going on, and I could tell there wasn’t a lot of blood dripping.”
When he got home, he explained the story to his wife and had her check out the bite marks on his back. She suggested he seek medical attention, so he went to the emergency room, where the wound was cleaned with saline. Roach also received antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and was put on a regiment for rabies treatment.
The wounds are healing nicely and are not expected to impact his baseball career at all, although his back is still a little sore. He said the bear seemed more curious than angry, and he even suspects the bear was clueless to the fact there was a person in the tree when it climbed up.
“I’m pretty fortunate that it’s not some big nasty bite that took off half my back and that I’m still here and able to talk about it today.”
He’s hunted on the same property countless times, and although he knew bears were in the area, he had never seen one. Moving forward, he plans to be more prepared for any potential bear encounters, though. He has no plans to stop hunting in the area, though.
“I never felt a need to carry a sidearm or bear spray or anything like that. I still plan to hunt like usual. I honestly am not scared of heading back into the woods at all. It was a super rare situation, and I am just happy to have made it out OK. But I am still excited to get back into the woods.
I’m very fortunate that this whole scenario went the way it did, and now I have a heck of a story to tell.”
Even after the dangerous bear encounter, his wife still supports his hunting habits too.
“I continue to be amazed by my husband’s ability to think quickly and stay calm under pressure, both on the ball field and in the woods, and am incredibly grateful that he was able to survive a literal black bear hug and walk away with only a minor bite and 22 rabies shots.
I also can’t wait for him to get back in the stand and fill our freezer with meat — Dalton is very good at providing for his tribe.”