Laurel-Rose von Hoffman-Curzi has had a rough time lately. Battling stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she retreated to the family home in Tahoe Vista, California, to rest, recover and distance.
That cabin was a refuge until the morning of Oct. 30, when an unexpected guest made himself comfortable in her kitchen. It was around 6:00 a.m. when Von Hoffman-Curzi heard strange noises coming from the kitchen and went to investigate.
“I could see the freezer door half open … And it was like in an instant, ‘Oh my gosh. This is a bear,'” she said, according to WBTV. “And the next thing that happens is that I’m being torn apart.
“A bear mauling is not a little thing … it’s huge.”
She didn’t realize it at the time, but she had positioned herself between the bear and its only escape route: the open door behind her.
“I’m screaming the whole time,” she said. “Screaming at the top of my lungs.”
“He must have come straight at me,” she added in an interview with KTVU-TV. “I have only a vision of the paw. It was dark, and then I’m getting torn up.”
At some point, the 66-year-old threw a quilt over the bear, and when her son and husband showed up, the bear took off.
Von Hoffman-Curzi ended up with dozens of stitches after her face, limbs and chest were torn up. She has a good prognosis, but the event has certainly left its own scars.
“I am so incredibly lucky to be alive, I mean, no question,” she said, according to WBTV.
“I should be dead the, the way the bear swiped at my face and right here,” she added while pointing to her neck, KTVU reported.
According to the BEAR League, it was a series of events that led to the unfortunate encounter, starting with the way people currently interact with bears in the area.
“We call it getting friendlier because actually what they are doing is they are getting more comfortable around people,” said Ann Bryant, the director of the BEAR League, according to WBTV.
Bears, like many animals, are attracted to strong food smells, including garbage, cat food and whatever tantalizing items they can smell in homes or vehicles.
According to a post by the BEAR League, it was some ripening avocados on a windowsill that drew the bear’s attention. Another crucial mistake was that the back door had not been secured, allowing the bear easy access into the home.
Once the bear had gotten in and eaten the avocados, it turned its attention to the freezer. Bears are clever animals, and this particular one knew about ice cream, so it investigated and was rewarded for its efforts with several small cartons that happened to be in the freezer.
The last mistake was that — however accidental it may have been — when Von Hoffman-Curzi approached the bear, she had blocked the exit, and the only way out became through her.
Both Von Hoffman-Curzi and the bear have paid for this ill-fated meeting, the former with her injuries, and the latter because a bear trap has now been set at the home and the bear is at risk of being euthanized.
“If we can identify the profile of the attacking animal that we might have trapped, we can remove it, and it could be euthanized,” said Captain Patrick Foy with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to KTVU.
Foy also said that there have been three bear attacks this year in the area, and Von Hoffman-Curzi had seen this bear around before.
“This bear’s been in the neighborhood,” she said. “He’s not afraid of people. My screaming didn’t frighten him,” KTVU reported.
The BEAR League wrote a heartfelt post from the perspective of the bear, encouraging people to take responsibility for their actions and not blame the bear for doing something that animals do. They wrote that the bear has been unfairly villainized, especially since they say there’s no record of a black bear killing anyone in California.
At the very least, if you are in bear country, protect yourself and the wildlife by keeping it wild, securing your garbage and other potential sources of food, not getting in the path of an animal and double-checking that your house has been locked up.
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