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Jessica Gamboa bear attack: 25-year-old mauled by grizzly bear, how she survived

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Jessica Gamboa describes her bear attack as “surreal” and sure that she was going to die. In an interview at her hospital bed, Gamboa said that she credits her survival of the grizzly bear attack to the fact that she remained in a fetal position and was absolutely silent even though the bear had picked her up by her backside, dragged her across the road, tossed her to the ground again, and then continued to slash her a few more times with its powerful paws before walking away, reported San Francisco Gate on May 29.

After the grizzly bear attack, Gamboa continued to play dead until the bear and her two cubs had disappeared into the Alaskan woods. Severely wounded, but alive, the 25-year-old mom of a four-year-old boy crawled out of the embankment, dragged herself up to the road while holding both of her hands to her bleeding neck, and prayed that someone would drive along and come to her rescue. “I could see blood just everywhere,” she said. “I could feel pulsing out of my neck. I knew I was in bad shape.”

Jessica Gamboa from Sacramento in California is married to a soldier who is assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska. On May 18, she and her husband Jacob went jogging on the grounds of the military base when they got separated because he is a faster runner.

About 20 minutes into her run and being behind Jacob, Jessica noticed a grizzly bear cub on the side of the road. Before she was even able to finish the thought that wherever there is a cub there is a mother, the mother bear came towards her with a second cub, knocked her down, picked her up again, and dragged her to the other side of the road where both cubs had been waiting.

Jessica said during a 30-minute interview at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage that the attack was so quick and horrific that she could not even distinguish at times whether she was bitten or lashed by the grizzly. What she did know was that no matter what, she wanted to survive for her little boy. In her interview at her hospital bed, she said that she didn’t scream or fight during the attack but that she did what she had been taught to do -- surrender yourself and play dead.

When Sgt. Collin Gillikin came driving down the road and saw Jessica with bloody bite and scratch marks over her neck, arms and legs, a torn ear and neck fractures, her prayers were answered. Gillikin was a combat medic from Rockford in Michigan and even though he had just cleaned out his car and did not have any medical supplies on hand, he knew what to do. He rushed her to the base hospital from where she was later transferred to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. Jessica was released from the hospital on Thursday.

Jessica Gamboa’s bear attack and her reaction of playing dead was correct, said Mark Sledge, who is a senior conservation law enforcement officer at the base in Alaska. In this instance, the grizzly bear mother was just trying to protect her cubs. In other bear encounters though, playing dead might be the wrong way to react and yelling or throwing stones would be more appropriate. Besides Jessica Gamboa, who considers herself lucky to be alive, Sgt. Collin Gillikin also said in an interview that he has been changed by the experience. Until then, he had never been a man of faith, but being at the right place at the right time, made him think – was it really a coincidence? “It kind of made me realize there’s something bigger than myself out there.”

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