Woman Survives Bear Attack by Playing Dead: ‘I Heard My Skull Crunch’

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by: Peter Zenkl/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Two years ago, a woman was walking her dogs when she suddenly encountered a bear. As experts recommend, the woman began making lots of noise and acted big, a common tactic for scaring away bears. Unfortunately, the move backfired and the bear attacked. Reflecting on the experience, she said she lived through the attack by playing dead, even after hearing her skull “crunch.”

According to Fox News, Renee Levow of Frederick County, Maryland was walking her two German shepherds, Kylie and Bones, when they came face to face with a bear. Unsurprisingly, Kylie snapped at the bear, initiating the attack but unfortunately for Levow, the bruin locked eyes with her.

“After a few seconds, he swatted me down and then bit my left leg twice just above my knee, and then he tossed me to the side and continued to bite me,” Levow recalled.

Afterward, “He bit my skull and the side of my face twice — [and with] the first bite on the left side of my face and head, I heard my skull crunch.”

That was just the beginning. During its attack, the bear concentrated its attention on the woman’s head. He returned with several more bites before finally abandoning his prey.

“He bit me again on the right side of my scalp, [and] above my eye, severing the nerves,” Levow said.

At that point, all she could think to do was play dead. Covering her head with her hands, she rolled flat onto the ground, and, soon enough, the bear lost interest.

How the Bear Haunts Levow Two Years Following the Attack:

Fortunately, Levow recovered from the attack. However, despite two years of healing, there are still scars and permanent damage left in the bear’s wake.

“I have a scar on my chest from where he initially swatted me to the ground,” Levow said, “and then I have damage to my left leg above the knee where he took two bites. I also have permanent damage on my scalp, face, and leg.”

Despite the severity of her injuries and the horror of hearing her skull “crunch,” Levow is just grateful the bear ended its attack when it did.

“I’m thankful he left me alone, and I’m alive,” she said.

Although the Marylander’s two methods of fending off the bear attack—acting big versus playing dead—ended with two extremely different results, both are recommended methods by wildlife experts.

Taylor Phillips, who owns Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures in Wyoming, said, “If the bear makes contact, it’s advisable to lay face down on the ground and with your hands protecting your neck.”

If you happen to surprise a bear from a distance, Phillips added, “Yell, throw objects and fight as your life depends on it.”

The National Park Service offered further advice about bear attacks and encounters in the wild.

“Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you,” the NPS said. “They usually just want to be left alone.”

If you come upon a wild bear, the NPS further said, “Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won’t be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack.”

More importantly, never imitate bear sounds.