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Professor attacked by animal in Itasca State Park

A biology professor from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., awoke in his tent early Thursday morning at Itasca State Park to being attacked by apparently a small bear.

A biology professor from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., awoke in his tent early Thursday morning at Itasca State Park to being attacked by apparently a small bear.

Jon Kenning, 28, who is from Hutchinson, Minn., woke up at about 2 a.m. to his head being tossed back and forth, Clearwater County Sheriff Mike Erickson said.

Erickson said the man didn't see or hear anything, but suffered "swipe"-type lacerations to his facial area that were consistent with a wild animal's claw. He added that no tracks were found, no food was in the tent and nothing else appeared to be disturbed at the man's campsite in the park's Pine Ridge Campground.

Based on the man's injuries and the size of his two-person dome tent, law enforcement and conservation officers suspect that a curious small bear may have injured the man after wandering into his open tent.

According to Erickson, the man was alone in the tent and was camping with 10 students who were at nearby campsites.

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The Clearwater County Sheriff's Office received a call about the attack at about 2:13 a.m. Thursday. An ambulance transported the man from the park to St. Joseph's Hospital in Park Rapids where he was treated and released, Erickson said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is advising campers to keep a clean campsite and store food properly.

"This is uncharacteristic behavior for a bear, if indeed it was a bear," DNR Bear Researcher Dave Garshelis said in a DNR news release.

"In my 21 years of senior parks administration, I have never had an incident where a state park camper was hurt by an animal," DNR Parks Director Courtland Nelson said in the news release. "It would be an oddity."

DNR Communications Director Mark LaBarbera added, "If I had plans to camp at a state park, I would keep them."

The investigation of the attack continues while park officials set a live trap to remove the animal from the park.

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