Hayden man survives being attacked by grizzly bear in Montana wilderness

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  • Courtesy photo Bob Legasa of Hayden holds up his bloodied and broken arm after he was attacked by a sow grizzly in the Montana wilderness while hunting elk early Saturday morning. Despite being sprayed with bear spray three times, being clawed in the face and having his arm bitten and fractured, the seasoned outdoorsman feels incredibly lucky to be alive.

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    Hayden resident Bob Legasa was attacked by a female grizzly in the Montana wilderness early Saturday. He is recovering in a Bozeman hospital and should be released by Wednesday. “I’m feeling extremely lucky,” he told The Press on Sunday afternoon. “It was a fluke.” (Courtesy photo)

  • Courtesy photo Bob Legasa of Hayden holds up his bloodied and broken arm after he was attacked by a sow grizzly in the Montana wilderness while hunting elk early Saturday morning. Despite being sprayed with bear spray three times, being clawed in the face and having his arm bitten and fractured, the seasoned outdoorsman feels incredibly lucky to be alive.

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    Hayden resident Bob Legasa was attacked by a female grizzly in the Montana wilderness early Saturday. He is recovering in a Bozeman hospital and should be released by Wednesday. “I’m feeling extremely lucky,” he told The Press on Sunday afternoon. “It was a fluke.” (Courtesy photo)

A roughly 500-pound grizzly bear galloped toward Bob Legasa early Saturday morning.

"She was barreling straight toward me," said Legasa, 57, of Hayden. "I thought this might be a bluff charge."

It wasn't.

The seasoned outdoorsman prepared for the inevitable.

"I braced myself like a football player bracing for impact," he said. "It was going to be a second or a second-and-a-half before I was hit. I did not want to take my eyes off of this bear."

Legasa was bow hunting elk south of Livingston, Mont., with his hunting partner Greg Gibson when the two of them spied their prey about 100 yards away, assessed their surroundings and made their move.

Even with their skills and cognizance, the denseness of the vegetation made it difficult to see absolutely everything, including the aggressive grizzly sow and 2-year-old cub only about 12 yards from where they emerged onto a road.

"We walked three steps and there was a narrow road and boom, that's where we saw the two bears," Legasa said.

The youngling reared up and growled, then made way for the mama bear to charge.

"I put my arms in front of me. I had my bow in one hand and had my arm out. She tried to get me into a bear hug headlock," Legasa said. "She grabbed onto my arm and had it in her mouth. I was knocked over on my butt and at that point I was kicking and screaming trying to move her away."

Gibson blasted her with bear spray, spraying Legasa twice in the process.

"My eye was covered in blood," Legasa said, telling his story over the phone from his room in Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital on Sunday.

Legasa said he was finally able to get to his spray as the bear moved toward Gibson, but he couldn't see anything and sprayed himself a third time. Gibson unleashed more spray on the bear, which finally retreated.

"It was a pretty intense couple of minutes of not knowing what happened," Legasa said. "At one point I had my face in the bushes because there was snow on them... I was thinking, 'I can't see a thing and this could be it.'"

The bear had clawed his face, gashed and fractured his arm and punctured his wrist with her teeth. Legasa was able to get to a hospital in Livingston and then Bozeman to have surgery to clean out the wound. He received a tetanus shot and started a rabies series.

He posted his story on social media Saturday evening to share details before the story blew out of control, he said. By late Sunday afternoon, it had gone viral with nearly 10,000 shares and more than 4,500 comments.

"It happened so fast. It was overwhelming," Legasa said. "I'm feeling extremely lucky. It was a fluke."

He said he is "extremely appreciative" to the hospitals for their service and hospitality and for his partner's rapid reaction during the attack. Legasa said he should be released to go home by Wednesday morning.

He said he doesn't think the bear should be euthanized for this attack.

"That's what a bear will do. It was startled, protecting its cub, starting to take care of the threat that was there," he said.

But he would like to see more grizzly control to prevent future attacks.

"They're just not afraid of anything. Having these types of encounters, they need to be relocated to an area that's not populated. If they could trap the bear and move it, that would be great," he said. "They've grown to a large population and there needs to be some management on it so we can lessen the population and the impact that we're having with these confrontations with humans."

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