MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) – Alex Machado was about 10 feet away from a black bear he thought was dead when it came to its feet and ran at him, swiping and biting.
“(The) thing popped up and just came right at me,” the 22-year-old said last Friday afternoon at his Medford home.
The attack occurred last week while he and 24-year-old Nathan Shinn of Phoenix were hunting deer near Trail, Ore., north of Medford. The men, who had been at it since 7 a.m., split up temporarily as they climbed uphill when Shinn, who was carrying a bear-hunting tag, saw the bear.
“He thought he saw me,” Machado said of Shinn. “Then he realized it was a bear. He took a shot. He said he thought he hit it broadside.”
The men tracked the blood trail and found the bear lying on a steep hillside, Machado said.
“We thought it was dead,” he said.
As Machado approached with his skinning knives in hand, the bear rose and charged, knocking the knives out of his hands, its mouth snapping and biting.
Shinn fired a warning shot, but it had no effect.
Machado retrieved his knives and ducked behind a tree, swiping at the bear with his blades.
The bear knocked the weapons aside and bit down on Machado’s arm, then his hand.
“It just latched on. I just started screaming,” Machado said.
When he yanked his hand back and started to slide down a slope, the bear bit him on the inside of his upper leg and both tumbled downhill together.
Machado reached the bottom first, landing on his back, 40 to 50 feet below where they started. The bear hit next, its back against Machado’s chest. Machado wrapped his arms around the bear’s throat and squeezed as tightly as he could, screaming for Shinn to shoot the bear.
“I was just squeezing as hard as I could,” Machado said. “I was just thinking, ‘I can’t die like this. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.’”
But Shinn’s gun jammed. So he ran back up the hill to retrieve Machado’s rifle, then returned and fired. The bear went limp. Machado said he heard its final breath.
Machado crawled out from under the black bear and lay down about 10 feet away, trying to calm the tide of adrenaline while Shinn dialed 911.
“He kept asking me the alert questions. ‘Count one to 10. What’s your name? What’s the date?’ All that stuff,” Machado said.
Machado started walking back uphill, hoping to meet rescue workers when they came, while Shinn stayed behind and tried to maintain contact through spotty cellphone service with emergency services workers.
The wounds hurt but weren’t bleeding too badly, said Machado, who estimates he walked about a mile and a half before rescuers found him.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department found him near Elk Creek Road and took him to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford for treatment. Machado’s wounds required several stitches and numerous cleanings of the bites.
Shinn was found by rescuers about an hour after his hunting partner was transported.
Machado said he planned to be back at his job at Sportsman’s Warehouse in a few days. He also planned to meet with a plastic surgeon, who will assess his injuries and address any potential nerve damage.
Machado said he is thankful to have survived the ordeal and gave much of the credit to Shinn.
“I’m really grateful he was there,” Machado said. “I feel pretty blessed. He stuck around, and he took care of all the phone calls, too, which I wouldn’t have been able to do.”
It’s not known exactly how much the bear weighed, but Oregon State Police Senior Trooper Mike Cushman said adult black bears in this area typically weigh from 125 to 250 pounds.