Hikers attacked by 150-pound Female Black Bear while Trekking in Virginia Park: ‘Thought We Were Going to Die’
At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday night, Laurie Cooksey was forced to make the ultimate quick decision to save her life: fight or flight, PEOPLE reported.
A 150-pound female black bear charged at Cooksey, 52, and three of her four children who were on an early-evening trek in Douthat State Park in Millboro, Virginia.
The family, who are experienced hikers, were surprised to be attacked by the bear which ended up clawing and biting Cooksey’s entire body.
According to the reports, the family was coming down from a high peak on the mountain trail, the Tuscarora scenic overlook, when Cooksey and her son Ellis, wandered out of sight.
Ellis was the first one to notice the bear, only 15 feet away from where he and his mother stood on the trail, standing on two legs, getting ready to charge.
“Ellis has always been deathly afraid of bears,” Cooksey tells PEOPLE. “We had joked beforehand that in case we spotted one, our signal would be ‘Hoot Hoot Hoot!’ Never in a million years did I actually think I would get attacked though.”
The bear charged, with “a look in its eye,” that Cooksey and her son say they won’t soon forget.
The mother and son tried to run away, but the bear cut them off, clawing Cooksey on the small of her back. The two realized that the bear had an advantage, and if they wanted to survive they would need to slide down the side of the forested mountain.
“If we were on flat ground, the bear would have had the upper hand,” Ellis, a civil engineering student at Virginia Tech, tells PEOPLE. “So we flung ourselves down the mountain. I thought we were going to die.”
They slid down the hill, but the bear pursued, cutting them off and biting Cooksey’s leg in the crease behind her knee, shaking it.
The mother of four kicked the bear and hit her with enough force that she slipped on wet foliage and rolled backwards – giving the mother and her son just enough time to make an escape on foot.
“In that moment, I wasn’t scared. I was just so thankful it was me and not my daughter that was attacked,” she says. “I didn’t have a plan when it bit me. It was adrenaline, I punched the bear. My emotions were on a high. We went as fast as we could back to Blake and Hannah, screaming at them to run.”
“The fact she walked all that way with all of her wounds and scratches, my mom’s a trooper,” says Blake. “She’s the strongest person I know. If this had been anyone else, they would have died.”
Cooksey was rushed to the hospital for rabies and tetanus shots and received 14 stitches – the majority of her injuries were puncture marks and claw scratches.