For some, the idea of stepping into the great outdoors is a relaxing chance to get away from it all. For others, it's a chance to be attacked by animals. One of nature's most ferocious predators is the bear. Bear attacks are fodder for popular entertainment, but what is a bear attack really like?
What steps do you take to survive a wild animal attack? Can you climb up a tree to escape a bear? Should you pretend to be one of its cubs until it accepts you and welcomes you into its family? Or are you out of luck if a bear decides that it wants to take you down? Based on what bear attack survivors say, there’s not a lot you can do once a bear has you in its jaws other than hope it gets bored before you die.
What exactly did these survivors do right? How do they describe what it's like to be attacked by a bear? If the looming terror of bear attacks haunts you late, late at night, you might want to keep reading.
Karen Williams, a marathon runner, was only 2.5 miles away from crossing the finish line at the Valles Caldera Marathon in June 2016 when she was mauled by a mama bear protecting her cubs. Williams did her best to protect herself - she yelled "No!" and threw her arms up, but that did little to deter the bear.
“I cried out in pain and Mama bear did not like that so she hit me with a left hook and bit my neck and started to try to shake me,” Williams says.
The bear clawed at her face and neck and left her with a fractured eye socket. The bear also managed to rip off part of one of her eyelids and a section of an eyebrow.
One consistent element of bear attack stories is that when people are mauled, the bear tends to grab them by their neck and shake them to within an inch of their lives. This is something lots of predatory animals do - even dogs do it when they play with their toys. The action is instinctual, and it's meant to snap the neck of their prey.
If you find yourself in this position the best thing you can do is play dead and hope that the bear loses interest.
In 2010, Deb Freele was mauled by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park while she was fly fishing with her husband and some friends. She and another man were able to survive, but a third person - Kevin Kammer - was killed and partially consumed by the bear and her cubs.
She describes the attack as the most painful moment of her life. She tried to play dead, but the bear didn't stop. "It bit my arm. I felt a big crack, and it dropped my arm for a second, and then picked it up again," she said. "It’s like a vise, tighter and tighter. It’s like the lions in Africa, how they choke their prey - it gets tighter and tighter until it breaks the neck."
In October 2016, Todd Orr, a hunter from Montana, was attacked twice in one day by the same bear while he was out on a hike, and despite using bear spray and pretending to play dead, he still ended up getting hurt pretty badly. "The force of each bite was like a sledge hammer with teeth," he said. "She would stop for a few seconds and then bite again. Over and over."
After the bear finally left Orr to bleed out, he made his way to the closest emergency room. Even though the bear miraculously avoided an artery, Orr said, "Blood was still dripping off my head and both elbows and my shirt was soaked to the waist and into my pants."