First Responders Cut Dead Bear's Head Off to Free Man From Its Grasp

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

You've heard stories from bear-attack survivors before, but I bet you've never heard one like this. While walking his dogs, a New Mexico man was attacked by an aggressive black bear, which clamped its jaw around his leg. And, it stayed that way even after the man killed the bear. 

Bears are common in the small city of Raton, but Bridger Petrini's encounter with a bear a couple weeks ago was anything but common.

"I got way too close, the bear was overly aggressive," Petrini told KRQE.

Petrini is a rancher and a big-game hunter. Last month, he was exercising his hunting dogs near his home just outside the city when he encountered the bear.

"When he saw me, he pinned his ears down and immediately made a big charge at me," Petrini said. 

That's when the struggle began.

"Down the hill, we went again rolling and he had bit me a time or two but he was never able to get on my upper body, so my legs took most of it," Petrini said. 

The rancher was armed with a pistol and managed to shoot the bear as he was being mauled.

"Somehow or another, he had bitten down on my calf muscle. It had basically twisted it over his bottom jaw so he died with his teeth locked and so I wasn't able to get away from him," Petrini said.

Both the Raton Fire Department and Game and Fish responded to the scene, but moving the almost 400-pound animal proved challenging so they sawed the bear's head off, leaving it attached to Petrini's leg. 

"When they cut the bear's head off then they were able to maneuver to where they could get it off my leg," Petrini said. 

He was flown to UNM Hospital where they occasionally deal with injuries from bear attacks.

"Bears are huge so you can see all kinds of different injuries from bites to scratch marks from the claws to blunt force trauma," Steve Mclaughlin, UNM chair of emergency medicine, said.

But this was a first for the staff at UNM.

"I've never seen this before. This is extremely unusual," Mclaughlin said.

Petrini spent a week in the hospital where he received more than 200 stitches and suffered extensive nerve and tissue damage in his right leg. 

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