A grizzly bear bit into a hunter’s arm and clawed the man’s face after he surprised the sow and her cub north of Yellowstone National Park on Oct. 13.
What could have been a potentially lethal encounter was averted thanks to the actions of a fellow hunter, who chased the grizzly away, according to a report by The Associated Press.
The mauling of 57-year-old Bob Legasa in Gallatin National Forest on Saturday was at least the seventh bear attack on a human since May in the Northern Rocky Mountains.
Legasa said he and his hunting buddy were walking toward some elk in Livingston when he heard a cub growl.
“We walked up to within 12 yards when we all saw each other,” Legasa wrote in a Facebook post, “and before I could even reach for my bear spray she was at full charge.”
Before rumors spread and things get blown severely out of proportion this morning I was mauled by a Grizzly Bear bow…
Shortly after, the cub’s mother ran full speed in his direction.
“I was hoping it was going to be a bluff charge, and halfway through I realized it was going to be the real deal,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview from a hospital bed in Bozeman, Montana.
He told the Coeur d’Alene Press that the bear weighed about 500 pounds, adding that he braced for impact like a football player.
The hunter said the bear tried to embrace him and then bit into his arm, puncturing the skin and breaking a bone.
“I was knocked over on my butt and at that point I was kicking and screaming trying to move her away,” Fox reported.
Legasa’s hunting partner Greg Gibson sprayed at the grizzly with bear spray and inadvertently hit Legasa twice.
The bow hunter from Hayden, Idaho, said that he, too, eventually managed to pull out and discharge his bear spray as the grizzly ran off.
“I had blood in my eyes and bear spray in my eyes and I couldn’t see a damn thing,” he said. “We were putting snow and water in our eyes, trying to get relief.”
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said in a statement Monday that the bear’s response was normal for a sow with a cub encountering a human at close range.
It was the most recent in a spate of bear encounters in Wyoming and Montana, several of which have happened during hunting season when hunters look for deer and elk in bear habitat.
Wyoming and Idaho had been set to open the first grizzly bear hunting season in the Rockies since the 1990s, but a judge intervened last month and said the bears living around Yellowstone still deserved federal protections as a threatened species.
Legasa, who was awaiting a second surgery in Bozeman, told reporters the experience wouldn’t put him off hunting, but he said it would make him a more cautious hunter.
“I’m always going to have my hunting partner close, and reposition where I carry my bear spray so I can grab it with both hands,” he said.
Legasa posted an update of his condition on Facebook.
“All in all I am in good shape. My arm is screwed up a little and sore and the vision is good, I will be fine,” he said in his post.
“Huge shout out for my hunting partner Greg as his quick response was able to minimize the damage and severity of this attack.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.