She Heard a Noise in the Kitchen. Then, a 'Big Paw Right on My Face'

Laurel-Rose von Hoffmann-Curzi, who has cancer, fought off bear in her Lake Tahoe vacation cabin
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2021 7:30 AM CDT

For Laurel-Rose von Hoffmann-Curzi, her Lake Tahoe vacation home has been a refuge during the pandemic, especially since she has stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma and is particularly vulnerable to COVID. But the 66-year-old retired doctor says she won't be going back to the cabin anytime soon after a black bear got into the residence and mauled her last weekend, leaving her with several injuries. CNN reports the attack took place early on Oct. 30, when von Hoffmann-Curzi was awakened by "thumping sounds" coming from the downstairs kitchen area. Thinking it was her son, von Hoffmann-Curzi went to check things out—and was shocked to see a bear going through her freezer, dumping items on the floor.

"About the time I recognized that he was a bear, he recognized, I guess, that I was a person and came charging at me," von Hoffmann-Curzi says. "I remember seeing his big paw right on my face and basically nothing else. And I started feeling my body being ripped apart." She says she was "screaming and screaming and screaming" as the attack went on, though at one point she was able to throw a robe and quilt on the bear's head. Her husband and son finally came rushing in, the bear ran outside, and von Hoffmann-Curzi was rushed to the hospital. Her face was scratched up to the point that she needed stitches, with lacerations, bites, and other injuries on her neck, arms, back, and near one of her breasts. She also sustained a deep puncture wound on her abdomen.

Von Hoffmann-Curzi tells KTVU she's seen bears on her property in the past, but this is the only time one has entered the cabin. She tells CNN the attack happened before her family had even cooked or eaten any food there (they'd just arrived the night before); she suspects that some avocados they'd brought may have attracted the bear. The deadbolt on the cabin's door hadn't been locked, and the animal apparently used its paws to open the door and walk right in. "These bears are super-smart," von Hoffmann-Curzi says.

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As for when von Hoffmann-Curzi, who's now on antibiotics to fend off possible infection, plans on heading back to the cabin, it won't be in the near future—unless the bear is caught. Capt. Patrick Foy with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says a trap has been set at the cabin, and that if the bear is captured, it will be euthanized. Officials have taken DNA from von Hoffmann-Curzi's wounds that they'll use to make sure they have the right bear. "I am so incredibly lucky to be alive, I mean, no question," von Hoffmann-Curzi tells KPIX. (More bear attack stories.)

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