Trail running can be a therapeutic form of exercise, but it always come with the existing threat of the outdoors.
For North Carolina resident Bill Palas, his usual run that he’s been taking for over 30 years became a nightmare when he turned a corner and came face to face with a mother bear and her cub. His home is adjacent to the Pisgah National Forest, which offers plenty of hiking trails, and plenty of wildlife.
In his three decades of running the trails, Palas had never had such a violent incident until July 7th of this year. The local North Carolina news station interviewed the man who survived the bear attack and managed to get himself back home after the fact.
Palas described the initial run in with the bears as:
“I’m running just below the ridge a little bit, and it’s real steep land. So I come around on a hard turn on a little ridge, and I come around and here’s probably a 20 pound cub sitting right there on the trail.
And when you see a cub like that, there’s usually a mom around, so I go and turn around real quick and all of the sudden, there I see the momma bear.”
Palas knew he was in trouble when he saw the cub on the trail, and as both of them startled one another, he began to scan the area for the mother bear that had to be close by.
The cub ended up running off up the hill, and that’s about the same time that the mother bear started to charge Bill. He tried to stand tall and wave his arms around to appear bigger to the bear, but the defense system didn’t work, and the black bear attacked:
“She stands up on her back legs, and here’s this head. Her head must have been the size of a basketball and it’s right here. She takes a claw and she rakes it across my face and chest, and knocked the end of my finger off.”
Palas says that the sharp claws of the bear felt like razor blades as the mother swung at his face, chest, and arms protecting her cub. At one point, the black bear knocked him down on his back, and stepped over him to where he couldn’t get up.
Bills told WLOS that he thought he was going to have to battle the bear in a “paw-to-fist brawl” for his life, but miraculously, the mother bear eventually left him alone and went to find her cub. Once the big bear was far enough away, Palas knew he was in rough shape and needed to get help quick:
“I was running on adrenaline and shock. I get about 20 yards or so down the steep hill and I try to survey what’s going on. You know, how bad am I? All I know is blood is just gushing out everywhere.”
Thankfully, Bill made his way back to his home, and his wife was there and rushed him to the hospital. While he was there, a face surgery specialist spent three hours sewing on his face so that the many marks the bear attack had left wouldn’t leave terrible scars. Pretty soon, Palas was just focused on recovering, and he couldn’t be more grateful that the bear spared his life:
“I just feel so lucky that I’m together. Seeing these three-inch claws right next to my face, I was saying ‘man, it’s surreal.’ I definitely have some wilderness street-cred now. How many people do you know that have been attacked by a bear?”
And in classic badass fashion, Bill has already gotten back to running the same trails where the wild animal encounter took place. The experience could have caused some people to never walk or run the trail again, but Palas said that he won’t let one attack in 30 years get in the way of his exercise.
Take a look at the news story below:
And if you wanted to hear about the bear attack in more detail, the news station also posted the full, un-cut interview that Bill Palas sat down for at his North Carolina home.