News 13 interview with Buncombe woman who survived bear attack

"The bear was just protecting her children," Toni Rhegness, a mother herself, said. "I can't even hate her. I'm sorry that she'll have to die." Photo: WLOS staff

On Sunday afternoon, we sat down with a 75-year-old Buncombe County woman who survived a bear attack on the night of September 18, 2018.

It happened outside her home in Swannanoa on Eastwood Drive, near Owen Middle School.

Toni Rhegness was taking her dog out last Tuesday night, when it started barking near her car. That's when she saw three bear cubs, and started yelling to scare them away.

They took off across the street.

Rhegness says that, scared that the mama bear might be nearby, she tried to get into her car with her dog, so they could both be protected from the bear, and she could honk the horn to frighten her away.

But she couldn't get into the car fast enough.

The mama bear ran to her, knocked her down, and clawed and bit her all over body.

She ran up her walkway, still with her dog, still being attacked, and finally made it inside.

"I surely thought if I didn't go inside, I would be certainly savaged, if not dead. As it was, you know, I was injured,"said Rhegness, who was bloody and lacerated after the incident, but was treated and sent home the same night.

"But it could've been much worse. I mean, if I had not gotten up and gotten in my house, I think it would've been much worse."

Wildlife Resources has since trapped all the bears.

The cubs were relocated, and the mother is expected to be euthanized.

"The bear was just protecting her children," Rhegness, a mother herself, said. "I can't even hate her, you know. I'm sorry that she'll have to die."

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