Bear attack victim fought back, happy to be alive

Alex Machado, 22, of Medford, suffered multiple injuries Thursday afternoon after a bear he and a hunting partner had shot grabbed and began to maul him near Elk Creek Road in Trail.Jamie Lusch

Alex Machado was about 10 feet away from the bear he thought was dead from a gunshot when it rose and came running at him, swiping and biting.

"(The) thing popped up and just came right at me," the 22-year-old recalled this afternoon from his Medford home, where he is recovering. The attack occurred while he and a friend were hunting deer Thursday off Elk Creek Road near Trail.

Machado reeled back and ducked behind a tree, swiping at the bear with his hunting knives. His friend and hunting partner, Nathan Shinn, 24, fired a warning shot, which had no effect.

The bear knocked the knives aside and bit down on Machado's arm, then his hand. "It just latched on. I just started screaming," Machado said.

He yanked his hand back and started to slip down a nearby slope. The bear bit him again on the inside of his upper leg. Both tumbled down the slope together.

Machado reached the bottom first, landing on his back. The bear hit next, its back against Machado's chest. Machado wrapped his arms around the bear's throat and squeezed as tightly as he could, screaming for Shinn to take the killshot.

"I was just squeezing as hard as I could," Machado said.

But Shinn's gun didn't work this time. Shinn grabbed Machado's rifle instead and took the shot. The bear went limp. Machado heard its final breath. He crawled out from underneath the animal and laid down about 10 feet away, trying to calm the tide of adrenaline. Shinn started making calls to 911.

"He kept asking me the alert questions. 'Count one to 10. What's your name, what's the date?' All that stuff," Machado said.

Machado started walking back uphill, hoping to meet rescue workers when they came. He estimates walking about a mile and a half before getting picked up. Shinn stayed behind, trying to stay in touch with emergency services because of the spotty cell phone service.

The wounds hurt but weren't bleeding too badly, Machado said. The Jackson County Sheriff's Department tracked him to an area near Elk Creek Road and picked him up for transport to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center for treatment. Machado's wounds required hospitalization, including several stitches and numerous cleanings of the bite wounds.

Shinn was found unhurt about an hour later. Machado was released late Thursday night.

Machado is thankful to have survived the ordeal, giving much credit to Shinn for being there.

"I'm really grateful he was there," Machado said. "I feel pretty blessed. He stuck around, and he took care of all the phone calls, too."

— Ryan Pfeil

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