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Exclusive: Bear attack victim speaks

Friday, August 01, 2008

Allena Hansen, 56, was severely mauled by a bear last month while walking her dogs in Kern County.

Swollen and scarred but not defeated, Allena Hansen, a petite 100-pound 56-year-old mother, lives to tell an unbelievable story. Ten days ago she came face to face with a 150-pound black bear. Before she knew it, he had pounced.

"My first sensation was that -- 'a little tiny bear, but what a bully,'" said Hansen. "Then I found myself down on the ground. I heard, 'Chomp, chomp, chomp.' I felt it go through my skull. I felt it bite through this eye. I heard kind of a squishy, crunchy pop. I went, 'There goes my eye!' Then it got a hold of my face and started shaking -- you know, worrying it. I could feel it tearing off. I could feel the blood, the wetness; I could see it dripping, I could hear it 'whooshing.' And I think the one thing that was most vivid to me was watching that little bugger spit my teeth out."

Hansen will tell you she was ready to give up and let the bear take her life, until she remembered she'd be leaving her son behind. It was also at that moment she realized her dogs, "Decoy" and "Arky," had come to her defense, giving her the opportunity to escape.

"In pain, I went, 'You know, the dog is willing to make that sacrifice. The least I can do is make an effort,'" said Hansen. "So, probably the hardest thing I've done in a long time, was getting to my feet, realizing I had to step over the bear that had one dog pinned -- and was gnawing on it -- and get away."

With amazing focus and clarity of mind, Hansen, severely injured and hardly able to see, managed to walk 10 minutes over rough terrain to her car, at which point, she says, she allowed herself one look at her badly disfigured face.

"I looked at the rearview mirror and all I saw was an eyeball hanging here, and what I thought was my cap on this side, which turned out to be my scalp," said Hansen. "I went, 'That's enough.'"

Undeterred, Hansen then drove four miles to the nearest fire station. Kern County Fire Captain Curt Merrill recalls being stunned when he saw her.

"It was kind of bizarre, because I asked her her name," said Capt. Merrill. "And she told me 'Allena Hansen.' And I know Allena Hansen, but I didn't recognize her.

"I don't see how she was even able to see," said Merrill. "To get to her car and drive four miles on a dirt road -- unstable dirt road -- to a fire station, is remarkable."

A nature lover with years of experience in the Sierras, Hansen said she's had countless encounters with bears, and always believed it wasn't in their nature to attack. But her latest encounter has changed her mind for good.

 

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