Black bear mauls Northern California man; officials to kill animal once found
MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif. — Northern California wildlife officials are investigating a Thursday morning black bear attack that reportedly resulted in serious injuries to a 66-year-old man.
The attack occurred in the town of Midpines, when the man stepped out of his house on Colorado Road in the dark at about 4 a.m. Thursday, according to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife news release.
“A large black bear struck the man from behind, knocking the victim to the ground,” officials said. “The man fought the bear, and in the struggle sustained multiple puncture wounds and lacerations to his head, legs, arms, abdomen, hands and feet.
“Although injured, the man was able to get away from the animal and drive himself to the hospital, where he was treated and released later in the day.”
Various media outlets identified the man as 66-year-old Larry Yepez, a Vietnam veteran.
“Mr. Yepez is a very tough individual,” Frank Milazzo, the game warden for Mariposa County investigating the incident, told the Merced Sun-Star. “He is a Vietnam veteran and is used to defending himself in situations. He did an amazing job of survival. It could have turned out a lot worse.”
Yepez described the bear as a young cub, 1 to 2 years old, and about 200 pounds, according to media reports.
In its news release, Fish and Wildlife did not indicate what potentially may have drawn the bear onto Yepez’s property.
Cal Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Wildlife Service personnel are conducting an investigation into the incident that occurred about 4 hours south of Lake Tahoe.
The bear was not in the vicinity when investigators arrived, but tracking dogs will be used to follow its scent, according to the news release.
“Due to the severity of the attack, and the need to collect forensic evidence from the bear, it will be humanely destroyed when found,” officials said.
The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office is reportedly advising residents in the 5000 block of Colorado Road in Midpines to be aware of their surroundings and keep an eye on children and pets. Should you encounter a bear in that area, do not approach it and call 911.
In its release, Fish and Wildlife includes a PSA on being bear aware: “Never leave trash outdoors and do not feed pets outdoors. In addition, all rural residents and recreationists should be mindful of nearby wildlife and potential risks of this type. Attacks on humans by wildlife remain uncommon but do occur on occasion. Basic safety and preventative actions greatly reduce the risk of attack.”