A Vietnam veteran was attacked by a 200-pound black bear outside his home near Yosemite National Park last week, and successfully fought it off with help from his tiny Yorkshire terrier.
"My [U.S. Marine Corps] unit fought for two days in Operation Kingfisher along the north-south border," Larry Yepez told The Fresno Bee
on Friday. "We could hear the [North] Vietnamese yelling ‘Marines — you die!’ that first night."
"The next day, we were fighting for our lives. When that bear was on top of me, it felt like that day. You know, it’s fight or die, and I was fighting for my life."
Yepez, who was awarded a Purple Heart after being shot twice and injured by shrapnel, had stepped outside to visit his detached bathroom around 4 a.m., and was ambushed by the bear.
"I hit him with a plastic flower pot from my porch as he ran towards me," said Yepez, 66.
The bear overpowered him, however, and forced him to the ground.
"I could hear something crunching as he had a hold of my hand," he said. "His eyes were 6 inches away from mine. That’s when he ripped into my face and neck."
Yepez kicked the bear off of him for a moment, but the bear bore down again. That's when Benji, his dog, began barking and nipping at the bear's heels. This distracted the bear just long enough for Yepez to slip away and make it back into his house.
"The bear started to push against the door, and I braced my shoulder against it," he said. "I grabbed a samurai sword in case he pushed through the door."
Luckily, the bear relented, and sulked away.
Bleeding from his legs, arms, face, and stomach, Yepez ran to his van, and drove 9.4 miles to the nearest hospital, where he was rushed into care. He received plenty of stitches, as well as rabies shots. The doctor said the stomach wound came very close to disemboweling him.
"My squad leader and corpsman [from his Vietnam service] actually called me today to congratulate me on still being alive — again," he said.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said that bear attacks are very rare, and that the recent drought has stirred up the bear population, who've had to range further in search of food. If found, the bear will likely be euthanized.
Yepez, who is Native American, told ABC affiliate KFSN-TV
that he gave himself a new nickname after the attack: "He Who Fights Bears, and Wins!"
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