Hero College Wrestler Gets in Fight With Grizzly to Protect Friend
"Definitely saved my life."
Grizzly bear attacks are thankfully uncommon in the U.S.—there are about 40 reported each year, and your chances of being attacked by a bear are 1 in 2.1 million. But what would you do if faced with the most aggressive bear species in the wild? There aren't a lot of logical options.
That's the decision a college wrestler in Wyoming had to make recently when he and a teammate surprised a grizzly bear in the Shoshone National Forest. They were looking for antlers shed by local elk and deer when the bear attacked. "I didn't want to lose my friend. It was bad," the Northwest College wrestler told Deseret News. "There was a big ol' bear on top of him. I could have run and potentially lost a friend, or get him off and save him." Read on to find out what he did.
Brady Lowry and Kendell Cummings' Saturday night foraging expedition was cut short by the appearance of the bear. The bear attacked Lowry, and Cummings said he jumped on the grizzly to get it off his friend. He shouted at the bear, kicking it, hitting it, and pulling its fur.
"I grabbed and yanked him hard by the ear," Cummings told Cowboy State Daily. Then the bear attacked him, biting his head and arms. "I could hear when his teeth would hit my skull, I could feel when he'd bite down on my bones and they'd kind of crunch."
"It tackled me, chewed me up a bit, and then when it was done it wandered off, and I started calling out for Brady to make sure he was all right," Cummings told KSL-TV. "The bear circled back around, and it got me again, chewed on me, and that's when it got my head and cheek. And then it went away again for whatever reason."
The bear then wandered off. While Lowry called 911, Cummings started looking for two of their teammates, who had become separated during their hike. The trio took turns carrying the severely injured Cummings to the start of the trail, CNN reported. They walked about a mile and were initially met by farmers, then emergency responders.
According to reports, the men were taken to nearby Billings Clinic Hospital, where they underwent surgery. Lowry suffered a broken arm, but both men are expected to make a full recovery. Lowry told the Daily that his teammate "definitely saved my life. If it wasn't for him, if I was by myself, I would not have made it off that mountain." "I don't know what I'm going to pay him back, I don't. I owe him everything," he added. "We'll be best friends for the rest of our lives."
"I am so grateful for those who assisted these brave young men in the aftermath of this terrifying ordeal and that no lives were lost," said Lisa Watson, president of Northwest College, in an email to students and staff. "It took quick thinking and no small amount of bravery for this to have ended without tragedy."
Officials said this seemed to be a sudden, unprovoked attack. "This is a sad and unfortunate situation, we wish both victims a full and speedy recovery," Dan Smith, Cody Region wildlife supervisor, said in a statement on Monday. They urged people in the area to exercise caution, as there has been "an abundance of bear activity at low elevations" in the area.
"In the vicinity where the attack occurred, reports from landowners and hunters indicate there may be six to 10 different bears moving between agricultural fields and low elevation slopes," Smith said. "Game and Fish will continue to monitor bear activity in the area and work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make management decisions in the best interest of public safety."
The incident comes less than a week after a 51-year-old bird hunter was charged at and run over by a 700-pound adult male grizzly bear in Montana. Wildlife officials said the bear charged out of thick brush directly toward the male half of a couple.
"The bear came out and ran over him," said a wildlife official. "It knocked him down – didn't bite him – but knocked him down. That's how he was injured, as it literally stepped on him and ran him over. Then it circled around and went back into the brush." The man was not seriously injured, but the bear was euthanized.