It isn’t rare to come across a black bear on a hike, but bears confronting several people in a group is an unusual thing.
When Weatherly Bates and her family were out hiking the Glacier Moraine Trail in Kachemak Bay State Park in Alaska, they had the heart-stopping realization that a black bear sow was stalking them along the trail.
The bear was just yards away from Bates’s 12-year-old son, Rockwell.
“We all got together in a group,” Bates said, KBBI reported.
Despite their attempts to drive the bear off by yelling and waving, the animal advanced on the group.
“It just didn’t stop,” she recounted, “and came right at us even faster.”
This terrifying situation could’ve been a disaster, but Bates says her faithful German shepherd, Sally, didn’t hesitate to defend the family.
“It probably got within five feet,” Bates said. “[Sally] went and put herself right in between the bear and our son, because the bear was obviously going to pounce on our son.
“And she just stood there. I mean, neither of our dogs ever barked at this bear, it happened so quickly, but she just positioned herself right in between the bear and our son and the bear just tackled her.”
In just moments, the 7-year-old shepherd’s head was locked in the jaws of the bear.
“It started biting her and she was yelping,” Bates said, adding that they have been wary of bears on the trail in the past, so her husband, Greg, had brought a gun in their backpack.
“My husband was able to get it out of my bag and ran over and he started kicking the bear, trying to get it to release our dog. And, he finally got a clear shot. I was just like, ‘Please you have to, we have to kill this bear. It’s gonna kill our dog.’”
After the bear released the dog, Greg Bates put the beast down. Then, the family rushed Sally to a veterinarian in Homer.
The 80-pound (approx. 36-kilogram) German shepherd sustained multiple puncture wounds, but the vet assured the family that Sally was tough. She is recovering fine now, according to Bates.
“It brings tears to our eyes that she did that for us, because I have no doubt if she hadn’t put herself in between us and the bear that it could have really hurt one of my kids or one of us,” she said.
Experts surmise that hunger drove the bear to attack. Indeed, when Bates returned the next day to remove the bear’s carcass and salvage what meat she could, she discovered there was nothing in the bear’s stomach but parasites.
During a season with an unusually low berry yield and salmon return, families are advised to exercise due caution.
But Bates says her children worry that the incident will lead people to perceive all bears as bad.
“As our son said, [bears] can’t just go to the grocery store for a chicken, buy a chicken for dinner,” she said. “So, you know, we kind of have to just respect them that they’re really hungry and, you know, having a tough year.”
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