August 23, 2013 4:44 pm
Updated: August 23, 2013 6:55 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Woman survives 12 days in the wilderness, after fleeing attacker

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CALGARY- For the first time, a young Alberta woman is sharing the harrowing details of how she survived 12 days in the wilderness—which included a face-to-face with a bear.

‘Dawn’ lives on the O’Chiese Reserve near Rocky Mountain House. Back in July, she was attacked, sexually assaulted and badly beaten, suffering deep cuts to her face and a broken jaw.

Her only way out was the woods.

She ran, deep into the forest to flee her attacker, but it didn’t take long before she became disoriented in the thick brush.

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“I went further, deeper into the forest, where there’s nothing but bears,” she recalls. “I just wanted to live, I didn’t want to die out there.”

She finally found shelter from the elements in a den—but soon came face-to-face with a brown bear.

“She came to where I was, then she smelled me,” Dawn says. “I thought she was gonna eat me, ‘cause of my jaw and the smell it was giving off. It was fresh and there was still blood and stuff coming out.”

She survived that encounter unscathed, and spent the next week searching for help in the vast, uninhabited wilderness. She would sleep during the day and stay awake at night, trying to think of every survival tip she’d ever learned. Dawn scavenged wild berries and river water, to keep herself alive.

“I was hungry…I couldn’t really eat the berries, all I could do was suck on them.”

One day, a bear happened upon her again.

“There [were] all sorts of tracks by the river. The second time I seen the bear, she just looked at me ‘cause I was crying by the river.”

Finally on day nine, Dawn happened across an oil lease road. She walked for three long days, before an oilfield worker saw her, and drove her to a truck stop to get help.

“I’m glad to be alive…I’m really happy to be alive,” she says.

It’s been nearly a month since her ordeal and Dawn is now out of the hospital, but still battles infections. She says the worst part is the memories.

“I’m still dealing with this and my dreams. I have nightmares almost every night.”

She adds that it was hard not to give up hope, as she was worried that people had thought she’d simply run away from the reserve. She was emotional to learn that RCMP, family and friends were desperately searching for her, around the clock.

“That made me cry, ‘cause I didn’t know. I thought I was forgotten.”

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