Dylan McWilliams, a 19-year-old wilderness survival teacher at Glacier View Ranch in Ward, Colorado, says he was fast asleep on July 9 when he heard a “crunching sound” as a black bear bit into the back of his head while he camped under a full moon with staffers.
McWilliams says he punched the bear in the eyes and nose as it dragged him 12 feet in about 15 seconds before finally letting go.
“I just woke up to a loud crunching sound and I remember a lot of pain, and just being drug across the ground by my head by a bear,” McWilliams tells PEOPLE. “I kind of thought it was a dream for a second, I didn’t know what was going on.”
“I was very afraid for my life,” he continues. “After it dropped me and I got back to where everybody was, I just laid down, and the blood was all over my eyes and I couldn’t see. I thought I was blind.”
Though McWilliams has only taught wilderness survival classes for two months at the camp, thanks to his family of outdoor enthusiasts, he knew that fighting back against the bear was his best chance at survival. Their advice may have saved his life.
McWilliams was taken to a nearby hospital after staffers called 911, where he was given nine staples to his scalp before being released. During the time of the attack, 12- and 13-year-old campers were sleeping in cabins 100 feet away. No one else was injured in the attack.
Experts say unprovoked behavior such as this is not typical of black bears, and on Monday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced that they trapped and euthanized a 280-pound black bear believed to have been the one that attacked McWilliams, according to CBS Denver.
After the bear was captured, McWilliams was there to see it. “I looked into its eyes—for me, I’ve always loved the outdoors, and animals—and I kind of felt bad for it,” he says. “But then, I was like, this thing tried to kill me. It tried to eat me. Then I didn’t really feel bad for it.”
Though he is still experiencing pain and headaches, McWilliams is back at work at the camp, and his passion for the outdoors continues.
When asked if he’s nervous about camping again, he said, “No, I’ll probably go tomorrow night.”