A 55-year-old woman was discovered alive near the town of Tynda, Russia after she was ambushed and partially buried by a bear. According to the Daily Mail, Natalya Pasternak recently made a trip to a forest near Tynda to gather birch sap, accompanied by a friend and her small dog. Pasternak was first alerted to the danger when her dog started barking. The bear—believed to be a four-year-old female—charged the canine and then went after Pasternak, who grappled with the bear and later played dead.
Her unnamed friend was able to escape and alert the authorities.
The Siberian Times reported that the bear was still there when police and wildlife specialists rushed to the scene. Officers shot the bear after it attempted attack them, but could find no sign of Pasternak until they stumbled across a mound of leaves, twigs, and dirt. Underneath, a seriously injured Pasternak asked them if it was safe to come out.
“Have you killed the bear?” she is said to have asked.
You can see video of Pasternak’s rescue below. Images may be considered graphic.
Officials said that it is likely that the bear buried Pasternak after mauling her. Some bears, such as grizzlies, will bury prey to save it for later or to protect it from predators. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), tightly packed soil or brush can slow down decomposition and mask scents that can draw other predators.
“As further sign of ownership, you might even find a bear sprawled directly on top of a carcass, attempting to rest while at the same time prevent pilfering by other scavengers,” the USGS stated in a report. “A bear may also move an intact or even partly consumed carcass to a spot more to its liking.”
When police arrived, the bear may have been trying to protect what it thought of as its latest kill. Wildlife experts often suggest playing dead when attacked by a brown bear for this very reason. While smaller bear species can often be fought off, larger grizzlies or Russian brown bears can be difficult to defend against. Instead, bear experts suggest lying flat down on the ground with your hands protecting your neck. Most bear attacks are non-predatory in nature and the bears will leave after “winning” the fight. In predatory attacks however, victims are advised to fight back in any way possible.
In this case it seemed that playing dead could have very well saved Pasternak’s life, but doctors say that she is still in serious condition. Pasternak has suffered deep scalp and thigh wounds as a result of the mauling and required a ventilator in the immediate aftermath of her attack. Doctors have since said that she has resumed normal breathing and is stable.