A bowhunter in Mississippi got more than she bargained for last Thursday when she discovered an adult black bear hanging out in the same persimmon tree that she was using to hunt whitetail.
Stephanie McGarrh was so excited to start hunting on the first day of archery season that she made sure to get into her tree stand before daylight.
“It was really dark,” McGarrh told the Clarion Ledger. “I wanted to get in the stand while it was still dark and get settled in.”
But right away she knew something was wrong.
“There were a couple of hogs beneath the stand and they were acting nervous,” McGarrh said. “Then I heard some limbs that were breaking and spooked the hogs.”
She shined her flashlight into the tree above her, but she couldn’t see anything.
“I assumed it was raccoons. There are raccoons everywhere out there,” she said.
Soon, however, she realized her mistake.
“Then the tree started moving more than it should,” McGarrh said. “I’m thinking these are really big raccoons. I was getting mad.”
When daylight broke, she looked up again and saw what she said was at least a 200-pound black bear.
“I was pretty unnerved, but I’ve had a lot of encounters with bears at the camp,” McGarrh said. “In my experience, they haven’t been aggressive.
“If they smell you they run away faster than any other animal. I’ve never felt threatened by a bear as many times as I’ve seen them. I’ve had them at the bottom of my stand, but I’ve never had an encounter quite that close before.”
McGarrh was so composed she looked away from the bear for a few moments to record a buck walking beneath her tree stand. But she didn’t take a shot. The bear started climbing quickly down the tree, and she could hear it growling and snarling.
“Oh, sh-t. He’s coming down. Oh, God,” McGarrh can be heard saying in the video.
She later told the Clarion Ledger that even though she’s had many encounters with black bears before, that was a frightening moment.
“That was the most unnerving part, the growling,” McGarrh said. “But he didn’t stop by me. That growling sound he made right by me was hair-raising for sure.”
The bear passed McGarrh without harming her, and she soon lost it in the underbrush.
Black bear attacks are extremely uncommon, according to Dave Garshelis, a bear research scientist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Garshelis told ABC News that an average of one person per year is killed by a black bear across all of North America (the lowest number of any bear species), and many attacks involve someone’s dog getting into a scuffle with a bear.
Black bears are “kind of timid animals,” he said, and usually want to stay away from humans.
If someone is attacked by a black bear, the U.S. National Park Service advises fighting back.
“FIGHT BACK WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE!” the agency says on its website. “Do not play dead. Direct punches and kicks at the bear’s face, and use any weapon like rocks, branches, or bear spray to defend yourself.”