A Midlothian resident survived a bear attack while hiking in Douthat State Park last Saturday. Laurie Cooksey and her three children were hiking on the west side of the park, which is located in Bath County, on Saturday afternoon when they spotted a black bear very close to the trail.
The bear charged almost immediately, and caught up to Cooksey when she slipped on some leaves. The bear clawed her back and bit her twice in the leg. Fortunately, Cooksey’s sons were able to scare the bear away with intimidation tactics. She ended up with 28 stitches, but her injuries could have been much worse.
Following the attack, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation closed several miles of trails to hunt for the bear. An adult female black bear believed to be responsible for the attack was located and humanely killed early Sunday morning. Trails reopened Monday. Testing will confirm if this was the bear that attacked Cooksey within a week.
According to the Wildlife Center of Virginia, bear attacks are not common. There is, however, a healthy population of black bears in the state, particularly in the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains. If you enjoy hiking or other outdoor activities, it’s important to be know the facts about bears and how to stay safe. These tips are a good start.
- Don’t hike alone. Solo hikers are less intimidating and, therefore, more vulnerable to attack.
- Make noise. Bears naturally want to avoid humans. If you clap and shout often while on the trail, you will likely never see any bears that might be in the area.
- Don’t mess with a bear’s food. Any dead animals you spot may be a bear’s dinner. Steer clear and inform a park ranger. Also leave food and drink with strong odors at home as bears are attracted to the smell of food.
- If you do see a bear, stay calm. Don’t surprise it, and don’t run. Just back away slowly and don’t make eye contact. You don’t want the bear to see you as a threat.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has more information on bears in Virginia.
Have you had any close encounters with bears or other wildlife? Leave a comment below!