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CARBON COUNTY -- A 78-year-old man was attacked by a bear and saved by his family early Friday morning. The man's daughter jumped on the bear and began beating it with her fists until the animal let go of her father; another family member then shot the bear.
Lou Downard grew up 150 yards from where the bear attack took place. He wanted to show the area to his children and grandchildren, so the entire family went on a Green River rafting trip in Desolation Canyon.
On Thursday, the group noticed an unwelcome visitor: a 300-pound black bear. They fired a warning shot and chased it away. The group went to sleep--some in tents; others, like Lou, on cots outside. The bear returned around 12:30 a.m. Friday.
"It came along, and I was laying on my right side, and it got me there," Lou said. "[I] yelped, ‘Help! The bear's got me!'"
"At that time, I said, ‘Dad, I'm here!' And I just grabbed the bear and started cussing and swinging," said Downard's daughter Becky Harvey. "It had my dad, and I was angry."
Harvey pulled the bear off with the help of Lou's grandson Riley Downard; he shot the bear in the back with the gun he'd taken to bed with him."It was just more adrenaline and response more than anything. The fear was not there," Riley said. Wildlife officials recovered the bear's body a short ways away.
"The family did everything right," said Mark Hadley, with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "When a bear is exhibiting that kind of behavior, you have to protect yourself."
Lou was flown to a local hospital with puncture marks and scratches on his torso and arms. He was released later Friday morning.
While wildlife officials aren't sure why the bear chose that particular campsite, Lou believes the bear was simply hungry. Tonight, he can't thank his family enough.
"It's a little sore, but I think I came out of it pretty damn lucky," he said.
The bear's carcass is now at a lab in Nephi, where it will be tested for disease.
The family would like to thank the rafting guides at Colorado River and Trail Expeditions for administering first aid, as well as Red Tail Aviation for flying them out of the canyon.