Natalya Pasternak had been collecting birch sap, for juice, in a forest in Tynda, in southeastern Russia, with a friend when her dog began to bark, warning of some impending danger. Then, a 4-year-old female bear attacked as Pasternak's friend ran for help.
By the time rescuers arrived, Pasternak, 55, who has two grown children, had been partially buried by the bear, which apparently assumed she was dead and may have planned to return later to eat her. After the bear began to attack the rescuers, they shot it several times, killing it, before seeing Pasternak, who had been covered partially with dirt and leaves, the Siberian Times reported.
Pasternak was conscious, bleeding from where the bear had clawed at her arms and head. She was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was treated for her injuries, including to her head and thigh. Doctors described her condition as severe but stable, the (London) Telegraph reported.
"The bear was protecting its 'kill,' " conservation official Sergei Ivanov said, according to the Telegraph.
For bears to attack humans with the intent to eat them is "extremely rare," John Beecham, an expert on bears who was not speaking in reference to the attack on Pasternak, told National Geographic. Typically, bears attack humans either defensively, such as if they are defending their cubs or their food, or if they are surprised.
In August 2014, at least three people died in an unusual spate of attacks by bears in Russia. At the time, experts cited extreme weather and human activity as two of the probable causes. In one case, a 14-year-old boy needed 170 stitches and was left in critical condition after a bear attacked and dragged him around before police managed to shoot the animal.
Russia is home to the Kamchatka brown bear, or the Far Eastern brown bear, as well as black grizzly bears. Male Kamchatka brown bears can grow to 9 feet and 800 pounds, while females can reach up to 7 feet in height and weigh 700 pounds.