Man jump kicks bear in chest after it breaks into cabin at Fallen Leaf Lake

Claire Cudahy
Johnny Bolton scared off a black bear in a Fallen Leaf Lake cabin by kicking it in the chest.
Provided / Johnny Bolton

When Johnny Bolton walked downstairs to inspect a loud crash in his friend’s cabin at Fallen Leaf Lake Sunday night, he was prepared with a blow horn just in case it was a bear. What he wasn’t prepared for was the bear to be standing behind him when he closed the front door after thinking it was all clear.

“I turn around and I’m 3 feet from a bear. I blast the horn, the bear goes up on its hind legs, so fight or flight, right? Adrenaline is pumping and there is no flight available — I’ve closed the door behind me,” recalled Bolton. “The bear lunges at me and I did a jump kick and hit him square in the sternum and knocked the bear backwards, but not very far. It was a big bear.”

Bolton said the bear stood at about 6 feet tall.

Startled, the bear went back down on all fours and headed to find another way out. Bolton opened the front door and got as far away as he could so the bear could eventually run out the front door.

“I know how fortunate I am to be alive right now,” said Bolton, who got away with a few scratches on his leg from a swipe of the bear’s claws when he kicked it.

The Incline Village resident said he’s used to living with bears around, but never had a face-to-face encounter like this.

On Saturday night, a bear — which Bolton suspects is the same one — broke into the cabin through a locked window and ransacked the kitchen. To enter the home the next night, the bear broke through the locked front door.

“They are creatures of habit. Clearly he came back for more,” said Bolton.

Despite this scary experience, Bolton said it doesn’t change how he feels about the bears he coexists with in Tahoe.

“I’m all for bear proofing and don’t give them access to food. This is not their natural food source,” said Bolton. “I am just impressed with their strength. The muscle. If I had kicked a man like I did with all of that adrenaline, he would have been knocked back 12 feet. It only made the bear step back once.”

Black bears are not usually aggressive toward humans. Between 1997 and 2017, only 25 fatal black bear attacks have occurred. However, as human development expands further into bear habitat, encounters are on the rise.

In Lake Tahoe, bears breaking into home and cars — often totaling them when they can’t get out — has become a regular occurrence.

UPDATE: The original headline for this story (Man fights off bear in Fallen Leaf Lake cabin) has since been updated.

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