A walk through the forest should be a time to relax and contemplate, and yet it immediately became a life-or-death encounter for two friends in Wyoming.
Brady Lowry of Cedar City, Utah, along with Kendell Cummings of Evanston, Wyoming, August Harrison of Vernal, Utah, and Orrin Jackson of Kersey, Colorado, were walking through Shoshone National Forest and searching for shed antlers from elk, moose, and mule deer.
It was a fun way to pass the time and they could earn a few hundred dollars for a big pair of antlers. The four friends are college wrestlers at Northwest College in Cody, Wyoming.
The four friends were out on the Bobcat-Houlihan Trail, southeast of Yellowstone National Park, when they decided to split up to cover more ground. The college wrestlers agreed to meet back together on a large rock at the top of a hill.
Lowry and Cummings were walking together when suddenly a grizzly bear slammed into Lowry, who suffered a broken arm and puncture wounds in the process.
Lowry recalled, “It shook me around and I didn’t know what to do. I curled up in a ball and it got me a few more times.”
Cummings then tried to wrestle the bear off his friend, and began yelling, kicking and hitting the bear, and pulling on its fur.
Cummings said, “I didn’t want to lose my friend. It was bad. There was a big ol’ bear on top of him. I could have run and potentially lost a friend, or get him off and save him.”
The bear quickly turned its fury onto Cummings. “It tackled me, chewed me up a bit, and then when it was done it wandered off, and I started calling out for Brady to make sure he was alright,” he said.
The bear was only gone for a moment and came back right away. Cummings added, “The bear circled back around, and it got me again, chewed on me, and that’s when it got my head and cheek. And then it went away again for whatever reason.”
After the attack, Lowry could walk by himself and was able to get to an area with cell service where he called 911. Harrison and Jackson had to carry Cummings a few times since he was badly injured.
Cummings was brought to Billings Clinic Hospital, where he underwent surgery. Surgeons stitched and reconstructed his face and head, which the bear had repeatedly bit.
Lowry was first taken to a hospital in Powell, Wyoming, but was eventually transported to Billings to join Cummings.
Other members of the college wrestling team, including coach Jim Zeigler, went to the hospital to support their injured friends.
Zeigler, said, “I’m proud of them, just the way they love each other, the way they protected each other, the way they stuck together.”
The college wrestling coach added, “I can’t imagine the horror, the terror of it. I don’t think they realized until after it was over how frightening it was. They just did what they did, helped each other survive and they lived to tell about it and I’m proud of them.”
Grizzly bear attacks are extremely rare, with records indicating that there have only been eight attacks in the last 150 years, with a risk rate of around 1 in 2.7 million.
Hunters and other wildlife experts say that the only way to survive a bear attack is to play dead. This is exactly what Cummings did when he realized that there was nothing else to do.
Since it was a surprise attack, Wyoming wildlife officials said they will not try to capture and relocate or kill the bear. It was also difficult to identify the bear that caused the attack since there so many bears in the area.
Dallas Lowry credited expressed his thanks to college wrestler Cummings for saving his son’s life.
He shared, “That young man over there — Kendell is a hero. Any normal person would have turned and ran, but these bonds that they build in college athletics last forever.” Brady Lowry was just as grateful.
Lowry has since recovered and gone back to college wrestling and competed in a National Junior College Athletic Association wrestling meet, with Cummings cheering him on.
He said, “Me and (Cummings) would both be dead if it wasn’t all four of us — if it wasn’t for (Cummings) pulling the hair, if it wasn’t for (Harrison) running up and scaring the bear away and not coming back for more. It was a team effort. We love each other. We’re going to be best friends for the rest of our lives because of this.”
College wrestlers need to brave to be competitive in their sport, and it certainly showed in that unfortunate bear encounter.
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