In a harrowing tale of survival, 61-year-old Canadian ex-boxer Rick Nelson recounts the story of how the fight-or-flight instinct, mixed in with some boxing expertise, saved his life when he found himself face-to-face with an angry black bear trying to protect her cub.
While walking his dog along a forest trail in Sudbury, Ontario, on July 3, ex-boxer Rick Nelson told CBC News that he almost became food for an angry black bear after he sat down on a log and startled a small bear cub that was nearby. The young cub yelped in fright, and called for his mother bear, Nelson said, and it was then that the ex-boxer knew he was in trouble.
“I sat down on a log and the bear cub poked its head out of the shrub nearby. It was so close I could touch it. It let out a yelp, because I scared the heck out of it. I knew right away I was in trouble. It’s call for mommy. The mother bear was coming full speed. All you could hear was the bush crashing.”
With seconds to spare, Nelson did the only thing he could think to do. He stood up, and decided to use his years of experience and an ex-boxer and bear hunter to hopefully fight off the angry 300-pound black bear. As the bear crashed through the bush into the clearing, Nelson said, she reared up on her hind legs and loomed over him. The ex-boxer took a swing at the giant black bear, but missed, and instead connected with her teeth. The bear swiped back at the 61-year-old, and connected, scratching the ex-boxer across the face and chest.
With first-hand knowledge of black bears, having been a bear hunter for years, Nelson said he knew that the bear would swing with her left paw first, but really come at him with her right “because most bears are right-handed.”
“I had the perfect shot to take. I did an underhand and hit it right in the snout. You want to make sure if you punch a bear that you’re hitting it straight in its snout. That’s really the only thing you have on a bear that will really startle it.”
The ex-boxer said after his punch connected with the mother black bear’s snout, the cub squealed again, and began to move away. According to International Business Times, Nelson explained that this was his “moment of truth.” Either the black bear would follow her cub back into the woods, or she would go in for the kill.
“[The mother bear] turned around and it was snorting blood. It looked at me, and I thought, ‘Oh no. Here it comes.’”
But, said Nelson, thankfully, the angry black bear opted instead to follow the cub, and leave Nelson and his dog alone. She turned around, the ex-boxer recounted, and walked away, as if the terrifying fight had never happened. Ultimately, Nelson was just happy that both he, and the bear, were able to walk away from the fist fight alive, and relatively well.
Despite the terrifying ordeal, Nelson doesn’t want people to be afraid of black bears, telling CBC that they are actually relatively harmless — unless, of course, a cub is involved — and rarely attack people. Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry echoes Nelson’s statements, saying that black bear attacks are extremely rare, and usually only happen if a bear feels threatened. A source for the Ministry stated that they hadn’t received a single report about black bears attacking humans this year. In fact, the last time a black bear attacked and killed a human in Ontario was 2005.
Despite the ex-boxer successfully fighting off a black bear with nothing but his fists, the Ministry of Natural Resources says that it is not recommended, and bare hands should only be used as a last resort when facing down an angry bear.