James River Water Levels

Westham Gauge
Gauge Height: 4.01'
Flow: 2180 cfps

Trail Conditions: Richmond


Todays Tides: Richmond Locks

High Tide: 12:00am
Low Tide: 6:48pm

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Black bear attack at Douthat State Park

Andy Thompson

August 10, 2015 7:40am

Laura Kebede has an incredible story in the Times-Dispatch about a woman who was attached by a black bear at Douthat State Park on Saturday.

Laurie Cooksey, second from left, with her childen. Credit: Laurie Cooksey

Laurie Cooksey, second from left, with her childen. Credit: Laurie Cooksey

Douthat, near Clifton Forge, is one of the original six Va. state parks and also one of the park system’s most popular. If there’s ever been a bear attack there before, I’ve never heard of it. But there was Laurie Cooksey hiking with her daughter and two sons over the weekend when a black bear charged her.

As Kebede writes, the bear clawed Cooksey’s back and knocked her to the ground off the trail. “The saving grace was it was raining hard and the leaves were slippery,” she said. They both slid in the leaves and she found herself slightly uphill from the bear when it bit her twice on the leg. Cooksey kicked just enough for the bear to lose its balance on the incline and slide far enough away for Cooksey to make a run for it, she said.

Her sons Blake and Ellis, then jumped into the mix, screaming “to intimidate the bear as they had been instructed in materials they received when they visited Yosemite National Park.”

Apparently that worked. The bear ran away. Eventually wildlife officers tracked the animal and dispatched it. Cooksey got away with 28 total stitches in her back and leg.

I’ve been to Douthat many times over the years, including just three weeks ago to map the park’s lake for our sister company, Terrain360. It’s an incredibly gorgeous place, with mountain ridges rising on both sides of the Wilson Creek valley. But this is certainly a reminder that anything can happen in Virginia’s wilderness places.

About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?