10/12/2013 08:23 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Man Grabs Bear's Tongue During Attack Near Grand Falls

A woodlot owner near Grand Falls, N.B., says he's lucky to be alive after a bear attacked him in the woods. 

Gilles Cyr said he was walking through his woodlot two weeks ago when suddenly something black came flying out of the woods at him.

“When I opened up my eyes it was on top of me — with the friggin’ noise, it’s crazy the way it growls. Right from the stomach. It’s not from the mouth, it’s just inside. His mouth was wide open right in front of my face so the last thing I remember I had his tongue in my hand and I didn’t want to let go because he was trying to fight me off. So he was hitting me with his claws, so I says, ‘If you're going to hurt me, I’m going to hurt you too.’ So he was biting his tongue at the same time,” he said.

“For a second, I thought I was dead … that’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you open your eyes and see that friggin’ mouth full of teeth and a tongue in there. It’s like ... an extreme sport,” he said with a chuckle.   

Cyr said grabbing the bear’s tongue was just instinct.

He said he managed to escape behind a tree but not before the bear clawed his belly and bit his knee.

The bear followed him but then appeared to lose interest and walked away.

He was treated for superficial wounds at the hospital.

Cyr said that a warden told him he has permission to track down the bear and kill it as a nuisance animal — however an official with Natural Resources said Cyr may require a permit.

String of bear encounters

This is not the first near miss with a black bear in New Brunswick. 

In August a forestry worker was chased and attacked while working in the woods near Oromocto Lake.

Pierre Mezzetta of Fredericton required some stitches and a night in hospital following the attack.

In July, a black bear chased a Fredericton man into his home. He was not injured but the bear made off with his garbage. 

The province’s black bear population has jumped to 17,000, up from about 12,000 eight years ago.

A provincial biologist said one reason for the rise in the bear population is because of a drop in hunting.

Thirty-five years ago, New Brunswick sold more than 12,500 bear hunting licences. Last year, it sold barely more than 5,000.

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