Valley man mauled by bear recovering, infection still a concern

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Family members of the man mauled by a bear say he's conscious and joking around. Peter Baca, 30, is recovering at Scottsdale Osborn Hospital.

Baca was attacked by a bear on Sunday morning during a trip to Ponderosa Campground near Payson - a belated Father's Day gift from girlfriend Frankie Gurule.

The victim's family says Baca reports sleeping with his arm over his head when he felt the bear's nose nudge him through the tent and then clamp down on his arm.

Gurule snapped awake at the sound of screaming and the sight of blood. She was able to grab her 1-year-old son and run out of the tent.

"The bear was standing up on its hind legs," she said. "It was a black bear and it was biting his head and had his claws on him. I just remember running past and just thinking, 'Is this real, am I really seeing this?'"

Baca was taken to the hospital in critical condition; he had serious injuries to his scalp, arm and hands. He spent several hours in surgery on Sunday.

While Gurule says her boyfriend saved the family's life by giving them time to run away, witnesses say Gurule is also a hero.

"...Grabbed these big boulders and started chucking them, I don't know where the strength came from..." Gurule said of the moments after the attack when she tried to drive the bear away.

Two nearby campers chased the bear with their guns; one of them shot at it several times.

It was the third bear attack in the area in just the last month.

On Monday, officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department said they've captured and killed three bears that might be responsible for the attacks. It will take several days to see if the DNA taken from the captured bears is a match.

Meanwhile, the next few days will be crucial for Baca.

"The biggest concern for patients like this is infection problems because of the injury to the tissue and the crushed tissue and the lacerated tissue," Dr. Frank Mitchell explained.

Baca could be released within the week, or it could take several weeks if infection pops up.

Baca is the primary breadwinner for his family and although he has insurance through his customer service job, he'll be out of work for a while. With that in mind, an account has been set up. Click here for more information.