Kendell Cummings did not think he would fight a bear on a weekend and live to tell the story. But when a grizzly bear attacked his wrestling teammate Brady Lowry, Cummings leaped in to save him.
Cummings heard the attack before he saw it. There was a loud crash, and then he saw the bear on top of Lowry in between the thick trees, he told The Washington Post.
When he saw the bear mauling his friend, Cummings first tried shouting to scare it away. Then he threw stones and rocks in the grizzly’s direction. The scare tactics were not enough.
That is when the young wrestler acted on instinct. He leaped in and grabbed the bear, distracting it enough to free Lowry, Cummings said.
Then the bear charged Cummings, twice, the Powell Tribune reported.
Cummings had previously read about what to do in a bear attack, but none of that information had been about grizzly bears. “In any case, there wasn’t time to think,” he said.
Cummings played dead.
“I remember curling up,” he said.
According to the National Park Service, it’s best to play dead during a grizzly bear attack, covering your head and neck with your hands and arms, remaining quiet, and lying flat on your stomach.
What felt like moments later, Cummings watched the bear walk away. All he wanted to do was get off the mountain.
After the grizzly left, Cummings got up and moved down the mountain. By then, one of his other friends had already called 911, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said in a statement.
Cummings was flown by helicopter to a hospital and an ambulance took Lowry to a hospital, the department said.
Cummings and Lowry have had surgeries and are expected to make a full recovery, according to a statement put out by the Northwest College Foundation and Alumni.
Cummings says he should be ready to wrestle alongside his team again by the end of the year.
The entire grizzly bear attack lasted less than five minutes, Cummings said. But it has brought the wrestling team closer.
“Not just the four of us, but the whole team,” he said.
Cummings has known Lowry and Jackson for less than two months; he has been friends with Harrison for about two years.
Still, Cummings said, “if we all didn’t have these friendships and each other, we would not have come off that mountain alive.”
Recent grizzly bear attacks in the United States include a hunting guide who was killed in the wilderness east of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and a camper in Montana who had scared away a grizzly only for it to return an hour later and maul her to death.
The four friends from Northwest College were west of the Bobcat Houlihan trailhead in Cody when the attack occurred, the Game and Fish Department said.
The statement said reports from landowners and hunters indicate there may be six to 10 different bears moving between agricultural fields and low-elevation slopes in the vicinity of the attack.
The attack keeps coming back to the young wrestler. He can still remember the bear’s teeth, its head, the color of its fur, he said.
“Before this attack, I had thought that I could take on a bear easily,” Cummings said. “Now I know that a bear is pretty legit. They are tougher, stronger and bigger than I thought. It’s not so easy.”