For his job, Vancouver logging engineer George Knoll wears a heavy set of spiked work boots. While they’re not exactly the most practical or comfortable shoes for a long hike in the wilderness, those boots may have very well saved his life when he was confronted by a grizzly bear last month.
Knoll was flagging trees to be cut down near Bella Bella in British Columbia when he ran across a mother bear and her cub. With almost no warning, the grizzly charged Knoll from the brush and tackled him, raking the man with its sharp claws and tearing chunks of flesh from his arms and back.
“I thought in my head, ‘This is it, I’m going to die, this thing is going to eat me,'” Knoll told the CBC from his hospital bed. “I thought, ‘Oh man, what a shitty way to go… I’m not going to see my daughter and my wife again.”
Knoll remembered his bear safety training and curled up into a ball to protect his neck and head, but the animal seemed intent on killing him—so he decided to fight back instead. Knoll said he kicked the bear sow twice in the face with the bottom of his boots and that seemed to work. The sow reared back with blood on its face and, for a minute, looked like it was going to break off the attack. It took another few kicks before Knoll finally managed to discourage the grizzly.
“He fought it off and then it would take off for a bit and then it came back,” Knoll’s mother-in-law Patricia Bouchard told CTV Vancouver. “He’s a remarkable man though, I tell you, because he fought that darn thing off three times.”
After the attack, Knoll bandaged himself up as best he could and was taken to a nearby hospital by helicopter. The forester suffered more than 50 puncture wounds to his arms and back but had no major internal injuries. Knoll was released from the hospital after a week and is now continuing to recover from his injuries.
Conservation officials said that there is currently no plan to capture or kill the bear. Experts stated it was a likely a case of a defensive, rather than predatory, attack as the mother was trying to protect its cub. Bear sows are generally very protective of their young and will violently attack anyone—or anything—that it thinks is a threat. Knoll told CHEK days after the incident that he understands and now considers the attack as something of a spiritual experience.
You can watch a bedside interview with Knoll below: