The incident was captured on surveillance footage outside a home in Bradbury, Calif., on Monday, and later posted on social media, where it has been watched more than 40 million times to date.
The video shows a large bear loping along the narrow top of a brick fence outside a home, with two bear cubs walking along underneath it. A large black dog and two smaller dogs come running into the frame to confront the adult bear, and the bear takes a swipe at the large dog with its paw.
The bear cubs scamper away while the adult remains atop the fence, ready to fight the dogs.
That’s when the teen, identified by KTLA as 17-year-old Hailey, steps in. The girl charges the bear and gives it a two-handed shove, throwing it back off the fence and away from the home. She then scoops up one of the small dogs and flees with the others back into the house.
The bear does not appear to fall far, as its head is visible on the other side of the fence after the shove.
“My cousin Hailey yeeted (shoved) a bear off her fence today and saved her dogs,” TiKTok user @BakedLikePie wrote in a caption on her video. “How was your Memorial Day?”
She later explained that the dogs were “a little scratched” but OK, and that Hailey was also fine.
Hailey’s mother, Citlally Morinico, described the incident as “one of the scariest moments in life” in a Facebook post.
“Superhuman strength to save her dogs,” she wrote in an Instagram caption with the video. “My child did not even think, she just ran to save them.”
Hailey later posted her own account of the incident on TikTok. She explained that she heard her two smallest family dogs barking, and assumed they were barking at another dog. She went to investigate and spotted the bear.
“By the time I get there, the bear is literally picking up one of my dogs,” she says. “I go over to the bear, I look it in the eyes, and the first thing I think to do is push it. Push a bear. Push an apex predator, man.”
Hailey says she didn’t push the bear that hard, but it was hard enough to knock the animal off balance. She says she scooped up her dog and ran, scraping her knee and spraining her finger in the process.
The family told KTLA that it wasn’t the first time they’ve seen bears roaming the area around their home.
It was not immediately clear what species of bear was involved in the incident, but social media users were impressed nonetheless.
“SHE SHOVED A BEAR,” one user wrote in a widely-shared post on Twitter.
Many shared a remixed version of the video, which combined the footage with a freestyle rap by Mystikal.
“Y’all see me fighting in the forest with a grizzly bear, help the bear,” he says in the song.
One user brought up a recent YouGov poll graphic that circulated widely last month, which asked respondents whether they thought they could beat various animals in an unarmed fight. Grizzly bears were deemed the most formidable in the poll, with only 6 per cent of women, and 7 per cent of men saying they could win the fight.
“She is the 6 per cent,” the user remarked.
Hailey shared her own bit of advice with local broadcaster KTLA.
“Do not push bears,” she said. “Don’t do what I did. You might not have the same outcome.”