A 66-year-old Vietnam War veteran and his 10-pound Yorkshire terrier Benji survived an attack from a 200-pound black bear last week.
Former Marine Larry Yepez, who earned a Purple Heart after he was shot two times and wounded by shrapnel while serving during the Vietnam War, told the Washington Post that he was able to fight off the animal after it tackled him outside his house in the California town of Midpines near Yosemite National Park.
The animal charged at Yepez early Thursday morning in the dark when he emerged from his house. Upon seeing it, Yepez hit the bear with a plastic flower pot and, when that broke, the pieces. Eventually, the bear jumped onto him and knocked him to the ground, crushing his hand in its jaws and using its claws to rip at his face and body.
"I could feel the blood running out of me. That’s when I decided, ‘I’ve got to fight, man,’" recounted Yepez, who stands at 5'9" and weighs approximately 165 pounds.
"I was in disbelief. I didn’t know what was going on, but when he had my hand in his mouth and I could see his eyes just inches away from mine, I thought, ‘This bear is trying to kill you. You’ve got to fight,’" he continued. "I got my feet underneath the bear and pushed as hard as I could. He stumbled back, looked at me and then he started to come at me again."
The former Marine’s 10-pound dog then started biting at the bear’s fur from behind. "The bear turned around and swatted at the dog. and that gave us just enough time to get back in and slam the door," Yepez explained.
Once inside, Yepez assessed his wounds.
"I was covered in blood," he recalled. "He had bit up my hand, ripped my chest and abdomen, scratched my legs and thighs. He had tried to get to my throat. I still have bruises on neck. … Blood was coming from face and my ear. I had survived the bear attack but now knew I needed to stop the bleeding."
The bear no longer in sight, Yepez grabbed his samurai sword for defense, ran to his van and drove himself to the hospital. "My adrenaline was flowing. I didn’t feel any pain at all," he said.
According to doctors, the bear had almost disemboweled Yepez.
Though bears have become a problem in the area of his home, this represented the first instance of one actually attacking someone. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently searching the area and setting traps for the bear that attacked Yepez. If found, the bear will be "humanely destroyed," according to the agency.
"I’m not a bear hater," Yepez said. "I believe we live in the bears’ habitat up here in the mountains. But like the game warden says, if it had been a little kid who got attacked, he’d be dead right now."