‘It just made a lunge at me’ | 90-year-old bear attack victim speaks on event

A 90-year-old bear attack victim is thankful to be alive after a bear and three of its cubs had a close encounter with her while she sat on her front porch.
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 3:20 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2022 at 9:13 PM EDT
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SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A 90-year-old bear attack victim is thankful to not have major injuries after a bear attacked her with its three yearlings there as well.

Altha Williams told WVLT News that she was sitting on the front porch of her Abbott Road home when a bear crept up on her. “We’ve had bears, they get more common each year,” she said. “I’ve seen it before, but I hadn’t been out around it because it has the cubs, but I’ve been sitting here long times when they walk up here and they don’t bother you.”

Williams was able to use a lawn chair to keep the bear from approaching any closer, only taking a scratch on the arm. “I was just sitting here, hadn’t been here more than two or three minutes,” Williams said. “Evidently it heard me. It just made a lunge at me.”

WVLT News spoke to Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency spokesperson Matt Cameron about the incident, and said that Williams reacted exactly as she should have.

“The way she responded was exactly what we tell people to do,” he said. “To get big, yell at them, make noise. To intimidate them. Pat on the back for how she responded; it very well could have saved her life.”

Williams also said that this wasn’t the first bear encounter she’s had at her home.

“Last year I had a bear with three cubs,” she said. “It could have been the same bear, but it hadn’t ever bothered me.”

Williams also knew that bears are often more afraid of her than she is of them, saying when they see her, they tend to run away.

“They’re afraid of you,” she said. “So this is really unusual.”

Williams also said she took care to keep her bird seed locked up, only very occasionally throwing food scraps outside. Even that small amount of scraps can attract bears, though. TWRA officials have a set of guidelines for those in bear-heavy areas, and chief among them is to lock up all food.

“It’s one of the worst things you can do for bears,” Cameron said. He went on to say that when bears learn to associate humans with food, encounters shoot up.

While bears usually run away once they get scared, Cameron said this bear actually found its way to another neighbor.

“After the mother bear swatted at the victim, it left that area and, from what we are told, it charged another neighbor who shot it,” he said. Once that happened, there was no choice but to euthanize her, Cameron said.

According to Cameron, there’s actually a state list of guidelines on how to treat bear encounters. Once a bear encounters a human in a people-populated area, like a residential neighborhood, the TWRA has no other option but to euthanize it.

“We don’t just euthanize bears based on personal feelings,” he said. “Once a bear has made contact with a person and caused injury we have no choice but to euthanize it. It can’t be relocated.”

Now, Williams said she just feels lucky to have made it out safe. “I’ve been praising the Lord ever since then, because I may not be here,” she said.

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