STAUNTON, VA --A man who came face-to-face with a protective mother bear and her two cubs last week says his dog is the reason he's still alive.
Steve Kirchbaum and his lab mix Henry found themselves staring down the family of bears while hiking in West Virginia last week.
"I hear this crack over to the left and I look over there and I see these two small cubs, maybe 30 pounds a piece," Kirchbaum said.
Henry wasn't on a leash, and the 250-pound mama bear attacked Kirchbaum.
"She bit my thigh and knocked me to the ground, and so I am on my back and she is biting my legs," said Kirchbaum.
That's when Henry sprang into the action, coming to his rescue and attacking the bear. That gave Kirchbaum just enough time to pick up a rock and fight the angry mama bear off.
"I hit her in the head with the rock kinda right here in this region (hitting his head)," said Kirchbaum. "I didn't want to hurt her, just wanted her to stop biting me."
The mama bear did stop, and Kirchbaum and his dog then hiked three quarters of a mile to the car and drove to a nearby market for help.
Kirchbaum was bleeding from his legs, torso and arms. Emergency crews said he could have passed out and is lucky to have made it to the store for help.
Experts say black bear attacks are extremely rare. If you do come across one, what should you do?
"Well, the best thing to do is just give the bear its space," said Jaime Sajecki with VA DGIF Black Bear Management. "You want to back away slowly and talk in a calm voice so the bear knows you're not a threat and you can both go on your way."