Man, 78, survives bear attack by punching it in nose

‘I could have been dead. I could have been really cut up bad.’

Man, 78, survives bear attack by punching it in nose

HAYWOOD COUNTY, NC (WLOS/CNN) - When a mother bear attacked a North Carolina man outside his home, he suffered a bite to the hip but survived the attack by continuously punching the animal.

Sonny Pumphrey, 78, was in his driveway Tuesday when he noticed three bears, a mother and two cubs, next to him. He says the cubs ran off, but the mother bear reared up and attacked him.

"She made a charging dead run at me. That sucker was eyeball to eyeball to me,” he said.

Stunned, Sonny Pumphrey just reacted on reflex and punched the bear in the nose.

"I hit her right dead on the point of the nose the first shot, and when I did, she went down and started trying to bite me,” Sonny Pumphrey said.

The 78-year-old says he kept hitting the bear, even as it continued trying to bite him. He suffered a bite to his hip and multiple bruises.

“She got a hold of me and then shook me a little bit. Then, she let go and took a swat at me, and when she took a swat at me, she knocked me about 8 feet over on the concrete,” Sonny Pumphrey said.

From inside the home, Sonny Pumphrey’s wife Betty Pumphrey heard the commotion and rushed to her husband’s aid with their small dog, Bella. She was shocked at the sight of the large black bear in the driveway.

"I seen her stand up and rear her paw back, and all I seen was a mouthful of teeth. And I just – I knew he was going to be gone,” she said.

Bella started barking, the couple began screaming and the bear ran off.

Betty Pumphrey got a gun from inside and fired into the wounds in hopes of making sure the bear wouldn’t come back. She then called 911.

Following the attack, Sonny Pumphrey will have to endure a series of rabies shots, but even so, he says it could have been worse.

"I could have been dead. I could have been really cut up bad,” he said.

Wildlife officials tried to track the bear but were unable to locate it. They say without much food up high, bears are coming down to lower elevations.

The Pumphreys want to warn everyone to be on the lookout whenever they go outside.

"We have a lot to be thankful for because we were both very, very lucky,” Betty Pumphrey said.

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