What It's Like To Be Mauled By A Bear

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. 

  • Bears Aim for Your Face

    Bears Aim for Your Face
    Photo: The Revenant / 20th Century Fox

    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. 

  • You Get Treated Like a Rag Doll

    You Get Treated Like a Rag Doll
    Photo: The Revenant / 20th Century Fox

    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.

  • You Feel Like You're Stuck in a Vise

    You Feel Like You're Stuck in a Vise
    Photo: The Revenant / 20th Century Fox

    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."

  • You Bleed Like Crazy

    You Bleed Like Crazy
    Photo: The Revenant / 20th Century Fox

    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."

  • You Go Into Shock

    You Go Into Shock
    Photo: The Revenant / 20th Century Fox

    In January 2016, British mountain climber Greg Boswell was attacked by a bear while he was scaling Mount Wilson in the Canadian Rockies with his buddy Nick Bullock. Boswell tried to outrun the bear, but as the animals can reach speeds of up to 35 mph, he was just staving off the inevitable. The bear finally pounced on him and began to gnaw on his leg.

    Boswell managed to get the bear off of his, but he immediately went into shock and would have died on the mountain had it not been for Bullock, who carried him down the mountain for three hours to a nearby hospital.

  • You Get an Intense Adrenaline Rush

    You Get an Intense Adrenaline Rush
    Photo: The Revenant / 20th Century Fox

    While running from an angry bear in Douthat State Park in Virginia, Laurie Cooksey - a mother of four - was bitten on the back of her knee by a 150-pound female black bear. Because of the bite, the running, and her motherly instincts, Cooksey's adrenaline kicked in and she punched the bear in its face. “In that moment, I wasn’t scared. I was just so thankful it was me and not my daughter that was attacked." Cooksey and her family were able to escape the bear, who gave up on chasing them after the fight. 

    Experts say adrenaline rushes can cause people to experience superhuman-like strength and quick thinking - two key components when you're being attacked by a bear.