A brown bear in Sweden gazes at the camera.
Brown bears are common in northern Sweden. (Photo: Arterra / Getty Images)

A Swedish Teenager Punched a Bear in the Face to Save His Dad

The attack occurred during an organized bear hunt in northern Sweden

A brown bear in Sweden gazes at the camera.
Arterra / Getty Images

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Last week, news circulated out of Sweden that a 15-year-old boy had saved his father’s life after the two were attacked by a brown bear. According to multiple reports, the predator had pinned the father to the ground and was clawing and biting him. That’s when the teen did his best Rocky impression and punched the animal in the face.

The story was first reported by Stockholm-based daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet

The incident happened on Monday, August 21, near the town of Ljusdal, about 200 miles north of Stockholm. Every year the Swedish government authorizes bear hunts across the country to cull the national population, which in recent years has steadily increased in size. The boy and his father—whose names have not been divulged—were participating in an organized hunt in the county of Gävleborg when the incident took place. The leader of the hunt, Jonny Sjoblom, recounted the encounter to the Telegraph: the two were pursuing a female bear that weighed approximately 300 pounds when the animal turned and attacked the duo. It grabbed ahold of the father and began biting and scratching the man’s face and arms. The son punched the animal, and the blow broke the boy’s wrist. The bear left the father and then began attacking the boy, biting his wrist and arm. The diversion allowed the father to grab his gun and shoot the animal dead.

The father sustained serious cuts and lacerations to his face and was flown to a hospital in a helicopter.“He’s a tough guy, he’s mentally tough and will handle this well. I think more about his son’s well-being,” Sjoblom said.

“It’s damn unusual for something like this to happen—but here something has gone wrong,” Sjoblom said.

This wasn’t the only bear-versus-human story to come out of Sweden’s 2023 bear hunt. In Jämtland, a county north of Gävleborg, two men were attacked during the regional hunt on August 24 and August 25. Regional reports said both men were bitten on the arms, however officials did not know whether either required hospitalization. Olov Hallquist, the head of game for the county administrative board, told Euroweeklynews that both attacks occurred after hunters shot (but did not kill) the bears. “If you are out hunting bear, you must try to ensure that the first shot you fire is lethal,” Hallquist said. “Don’t shoot if you’re not sure you’ll hit it.”

Sweden’s bear hunts represent an odd wrinkle in environmental policy. The Eurasian brown bear is protected across the European Union under an ecological law called Habitats Directive, which prevents people from hunting and killing the animals, or from disturbing them in the wild. But of course there’s an exception to the rule: Article 16 of the directive also allows countries to sidestep the hunting ban under certain conditions, including if the predators in question are doing serious damage to crops, forests, or livestock. Sweden has argued that bear attacks hamper the country’s reindeer herding industry, which is a major driver of commerce in northern provinces, and is a key source of income for the indigenous Sámi population. A website for the Sámi government says there are approximately 280,000 reindeer in Sweden, and roughly 1,000 different companies that herd them.

Bears commonly kill and eat reindeer, and the attacks generate substantial media intrigue. In 2022 a research paper linked 38 reindeer and 18 moose deaths to a single 13-year-old female brown bear. Recent estimates peg the number of brown bears in Sweden at between 1,600 and 2,800.

As for the father and son, reports have yet to provide an update on either one’s health According to The Telegraph, the father was able to phone the other members of the hunting party to let them know that he was OK. Whether or not his son is exempt from doing his homework and eating his vegetables for the rest of the year is still an open question.

Lead Photo: Arterra / Getty Images