A 70-year-old hunter in France suffered serious injuries after he was mauled by a bear during a hunt in the Tarentaise region of the country this week.
Annemarie Gougeon, who is in critical condition in a hospital in Saint-Gervais-de-Beaucaillou, was part of a group of hunters in a wood when one of the hunters on the other side of the forest saw a bear approaching. Gougeon said he stopped his hunts when the bear got too close and then crossed the field towards his group. “I took a few steps back, then a few steps forward, and he came so close I could not run anymore,” she told the press.
Following a short face-to-face confrontation, the bear pounced and bit Gougeon multiple times in the head, neck and leg, inflicting “significant wounds” to the back of her neck. “She never surprised us,” said Gougeon’s son Paul. “I cannot believe she hit me or that she grabbed me. It’s a strong animal, so I guess she was looking for a man with food and that’s how it happened.”
Worried friends and family urged the local officials to intervene, but officials did not see the attack from their vantage point. “I always had this impression that she was much smaller than the bear,” an area forest official told the BBC. Local officials cordoned off the area and rushed to the location after Gougeon’s son presented them with a photo.
The situation was then turned over to the authorities of Carcassonne, who deployed the army to intervene and tranquilize the bear. The bear was captured by helicopter, then tranquilized and transported to an empty reserve.
The hunters were reportedly only given a few minutes to prepare themselves for the impending attack, but finally caught sight of the bear, the first in that same area in more than 15 years. It remains unclear whether the bear had been behaving aggressively before approaching the hunters.
This year, a record number of bear sightings have been reported in France. But national park officials are clearly worried over what has been called a “reactive and risky” hunting season.
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