LOUISVILLE, Ky. – LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A hiker who was attacked by a black bear in eastern Kentucky said he was about to stab the animal in the eye with his pocket knife when another hiker threw a day pack at the bear and distracted it.
"The bear had a really good chunk of my leg in his mouth and was shaking me," Tim Scott told The Associated Press on Monday, after receiving 50-60 stitches and being released from a hospital.
"He was trying to subdue me, and he was focused on nothing but doing that."
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources says the incident Sunday was the first recorded bear attack on a person in the state.
Wildlife Division Director Karen Waldrop said the agency's policy is to kill any bear that behaves aggressively toward humans, and officials have closed the popular scenic area inside the Daniel Boone National Forest and set traps to try to capture the animal.
Scott, 56, of Springfield, was hiking in the Red River Gorge Geological Area ahead of his wife and son on Sunday when he spotted the bear about 25 feet away. He said it appeared to be about 150 pounds and he took a few photos with his cell phone until the bear disappeared under a ledge. Scott said he was about to call his wife to tell her to take another trail when the bear reappeared.
Scott said he yelled and dropped his belt bag hoping to distract the animal. But the bear sniffed it and continued approaching Scott, who grabbed a rotted branch.
Alone, Scott hit the bear with the flimsy branch, but the animal kept coming.
"It was literally disintegrating as I was retreating," Scott said, describing his encounter in matter-of-fact terms.
Eventually, the bear "lunged forward and grabbed me a bit but let go."
Scott tried to move behind a tree for protection a couple of times, but he said the bear grabbed him by the leg and threw him into the woods. Then, it sank its teeth into his thigh and shook him.
Scott said he tried to think of ways to fight the bear off, reaching into his pocket and finding his 3-inch pocket knife.
He was preparing to stab the bear in the eye, not sure what the animal's reaction might be, when a group of hikers who heard the commotion arrived.
One of them took his day pack and threw it at the bear, knocking the animal sideways, and prompting it to release Scott.
Scott said he crawled over to the other hikers and the group backed down the path for a quarter mile, with the bear following them.
An ambulance met the group at the trail head and took Scott to a nearby hospital, where he was treated and transferred to University of Kentucky Hospital.
Early Monday morning, 12 hours after his hike first started, Scott was released from the hospital.
"I'm a little stiff but supposedly I'll be totally cleared up in about six weeks," he said.
Black bears, which were common in Kentucky more than 100 years ago, disappeared due to over-hunting and loss of habitat. Over the past 20 years, they have found their way back from neighboring states such as Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Scott, an avid hiker who has a property management company in Lexington, said he supports efforts to repopulate the woods with the animals, and he doesn't want people to think all bears are bad.
"This was a private incident between me and a bear," he said.
"I was chomped on by a bear, and he was a bad bear, but that doesn't speak of all bears."