The 68-year-old hunter is now missing a softball-sized chunk from his leg after a black bear mother came on the attack to defend her cubs.
The Carroll News reports that Ronnie Dalton, 68, was hunting this Saturday in Hillsville, Virginia – but not for bears. As he wrapped up for the day in his hunting tree stand, Dalton noticed a black bear cub on the ground below. Knowing his wildlife, the experienced hunter began surveying the area for any sign of “mama bear”. Seeing no trace of her, he made his way down to the forest floor.
Dalton’s eyes, however, aren’t what they used to be. Once he hit the ground, his gaze rose to a large female black bear charging directly for him. Mama bear was, indeed, close by her cubs (as they are 99% of the time). And she was in full protector mode.
“When my feet hit the ground I saw her,” the hunter recalls, still in shock from the encounter. “She looked up and saw me and when that happened she made a beeline at me as hard as she could come. I tried waving my hand like they say on a black bear, but I guess that doesn’t work if they have cubs and feel threatened,” Dalton tells The Carroll News.
Black bear attack: “I thought maybe I would have a chance…”
Dalton’s instinct was to climb back up into his tree stand to escape. Black bears, however, are extremely adept climbers, and will scale anything to eliminate what they perceive as a threat. Especially if a mother feels her cubs are threatened.
“I thought maybe I would have a chance [climbing up]. When I tried to climb the tree stand, I got about three or four rungs up and she made a lunge on me and grabbed my right side. She bit me on my right calf and jerked me out of the stand,” Dalton recalls.
From there, the mother bear threw the 68-year-old onto the ground. She ripped a softball-sized chunk out of his leg in the process, and left four large tooth marks. That’s the last thing Dalton remembers about the attack, however. The black bear had thrown him a good eight feet from the tree stand to the ground – knocking him unconscious.
“When I came to and got to my senses and looked, she was already leaving with her two cubs, thank goodness. And so then I looked down and saw my britches was tore and my leg gashed open. I said to myself, ‘I have to get out of here.’ I grabbed my bow and took off toward the house.”Ronnie Dalton
How did this 68-year old survive a bear attack?
According to Dalton, local wildlife officials say that being knocked out – instead of endangering him further – actually saved his life.
“Everybody told me being knocked out saved me. Once she grabbed me it was like a car wreck it happened so quick. She was on me and jerked me off that tree stand and I didn’t have time for anything. I thought it was the end and I thank the good Lord. He looked after me because when I came to she had grabbed her cubs. I guess she figured she done her damage and I wasn’t a threat.”Ronnie Dalton
In essence, he is correct. Once Dalton became unconscious and unresponsive, it is likely the mother bear no longer perceived him as a threat. And since her goal was to protect her cubs – not to feed – he escaped with his life.
Dalton too, was able to get himself to a hospital where he received treatment for his ravaged leg. While recovering, Dalton says he will need crutches to walk for quite some time.
This is, however, far better than the fates of several bear victims this year as encounters continue to rise.