How To Fight A Bear: Canadian Amateur Boxer Choosing Fight Over Flight, Sucker-Punches Charging Bear
How to fight a bear was a dilemma Canadian amateur boxer Rick Nelson faced on Sunday, July 3, 2016, when a 300-pound mama black bear attacked him for being too near her cub. Nelson, 61, was walking his wife’s dog, Maggie, in the bush of Sudbury, Ontario, when a frightened bear cub brought its mother charging.
Conditioned on how to fight by years of recreational boxing, Nelson opted to stand his ground and protect the dog he’d tied to a tree. He exchanged swings with the bear as he would a human opponent and ended the confrontation with both sides calling it quits.
According to National Post, how it began was with a Sunday walk undertaken by Nelson and his wife’s favorite dog, a 5-year-old mongrel named Maggie. After they’d gone to the top of a ravine, and fight enthusiast Nelson had tied Maggie to a tree, a bear cub poked its head out of nearby underbrush and started bawling. Here’s how Nelson recounts what happened next.
“It makes out its call and my dog went berserk. So now I know the mother’s coming.”
— CBC Sudbury (@CBCSudbury) July 7, 2016
Nelson, who shared with National Post how he boxed as a young man and still trains on a heavy bag, had to choose between fight or flight in front of a full-grown charging bear. Realizing that he had to stay to save Maggie tied to a tree, he stepped between his wife’s dog and the mother bear coming full tilt.
“I was thinking through it enough to look around and see if was there anything I could use as a weapon. But after that, no, it was pure instinct. So the mother came crashing through and I knew it meant business. This thing didn’t stop. It didn’t stomp. It didn’t snort. It just came straight at me. When it stood up and took its first swing with its left paw, it hooked my front shoulder and as I swung around I went to hit it but I missed because it hit me so hard. I hit it in the lip and teeth, which actually did a lot of damage to my knuckle. And it went down.”
Nelson explained how the fisticuffs increased in intensity from there. The creature rebounded to its feet, shaking off Nelson’s surprise hit and was back into the fight, swinging again, this time with its right paw. The paw glanced on Nelson’s back because he was simultaneously trying to roll away from it. The successful feint gave the 61-year-old boxing amateur a second shot. He balled his fist in an uppercut that rocked the bear right in the snout. Surprised to be floored, the 300-pound bear just sat on its rear.Considering how fatal consequences could follow the infliction of pain to a bear, Nelson remembers feeling fear for the first time during the fight. A seasoned hunter, Nelson was quite familiar with bear behavior in a rage. Up until then he’d thought, “Okay, I have to get ready, here it comes,” but the quality of the engagement had changed. He shared what thoughts raced through his mind at this point of no return.
“But in that moment, when it turned around and looked at me, I thought, ‘Ah, s**t.’ You know? What’s it going do? But right then the cub called again. And the bear just turned around and walked away, like it had never even met me.”
According to Fox News, as the cub wandered away, followed by its mother, Nelson could only marvel at how he had chosen to fight a bear and lived to tell the tale. As a boxing enthusiast, he picked up on an interesting bit of bear knowledge from the encounter, worth sharing with any nature lover suddenly having to go one-on-one with a bear in the woods this summer.
“I knew it would swing first with its left but it would really come with its right, because most bears are right-handed.”
According to CBC, a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry spokesperson commented on how there have been no complaints of bear-on-people attacks prior to Nelson’s experience this year. The ministry has sought to fight off rumors that a black bear is a danger to society. The ministry’s rule-of-thumb is that black bear attacks are extremely rare, and usually only happen if the bear feels threatened.
Another close encounter with a black bear:
Nelson is in complete agreement with the ministry, despite his close call. Saying how he doesn’t want people to be afraid of, or seek to fight a bear, he had more words of wisdom to impart.
“Black bears really aren’t dangerous unless you have a cub involved. So sometimes black bears get a really bad rap. Probably they’re more afraid of you and [me], than we are of them. I’m really glad that the bear walked away. And I’m really glad I did too.”
[Image via Shutterstock]