A mother bear and her cubs share one of the tightest bonds in nature – one of the most frightening if you literally run into it by accident.
“I put my my back maybe towards her like, ‘Really I’m sorry,’ and she knocked me and she knocked me down,” Army wife Jessica Gamboa said.
The Sacramento native’s body shows what happened next when she was running behind her husband on May 18.
She was on a trail at Joint Base Elmendorf in Richardson, Alaska when she saw a cub.
“Immediately my thoughts were, ‘Where is the momma bear,'” she said.
Almost instantly, a huge mother brown bear was biting and slashing at her – picking her up by the thigh.
Then, it was all over.
“I was just laying there telling myself, ‘This is it. I’m going to die,'” Gamboa said.
But, amazingly, she actually stumbled to her feet after the attack and caught the eye of a sergeant passing in his truck.
“There was so much blood, I didn’t know where to grab her,” said Sgt. Collin Gillikin, a combat medic with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
A neck fracture and blood clot in a vein leading to her brain are some of the problems that bear left her with.
Experts credit Gamboa’s survival to something she did during the attack.
“I played dead the best I could, didn’t make any noise or scream,” she said.
Wildlife officers here her home state say that’s absolutely the right thing to do with the species she faced in Alaska, but things would be different in California.
“We recommend a completely different response if attacked by a California bear rather than a Alaskan brown bear. If attacked by a California bear fight back very aggressively.
Though some Golden State black bears appear brown in color, they’re half the size and have much less aggressive temperaments than brown bears in Alaska.
Whatever kind of animal she may run into in the future, Gamboa has a new mantra for enjoying time outdoors.
“Never underestimate the power of nature,” she said.