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Man Gored By Bison On Catalina Island Played Dead To Survive

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A conservationist is recovering after a bison gored him on Santa Catalina Island this week, leaving him with a punctured lung and broken ribs.

The bison attacked Chris Baker, 43, near Isthmus Cove, around 8:40 a.m on Wednesday, the Press-Enterprise reports. At the time, Baker, who's the founder of an environmental nonprofit, American Conservation Experience (ACE), was checking out a new trail system on the island for a project proposal. He was walking along a hiking trail when he spotted the bison. Even though Baker tried to move away slowly, the animal charged at him, ACE said in a statement.

"He's pretty experienced, so this is not someone who is out there and doesn't understand animals," Matt McClain of the Catalina Island Conservancy told Reuters. "I kind of suspect that this was one of those crazy accidents."

Baker decided to play dead in hopes that the bison would lose interest and leave him alone, according to the L.A. Times. After the bison left, Baker managed to walk about a quarter of a mile down the trail to get some help. He encountered three off-duty firefighters who were backpacking in the area.

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"At first, he kind of looked like he was out of the Walking Dead," Jay Williams, a Brentwood firefighter, told CBS Los Angeles. "He looked like a zombie. He had that sort of gate to him and he was holding pressure on his right lower flank and he just said, 'I need help.'"

Baker was airlifted to the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. His mother, Elaine Garan, told the Times that he suffered from a punctured lung and at least six broken ribs. ACE said in a statement that Baker is "currently recovering and doing well."

Bison attacks are extremely rare, according to the Catalina Island Conservancy, which works together with ACE. They said the last bison attack was in 2012, when a 9-year-old boy was tossed in the air by a bison. In 2007, a man was attacked, and suffered from a broken pelvic bone.

"We see them all the time," Chris Reade, a Los Angeles County Fire Department inspector, told the Times. "They’re usually not aggressive."

These animals were brought to Catalina Island in 1924 during a film production. However, they were left there and their herd grew. While they're normally kept behind a fence, this particular bison found his way out.

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"Every once and a while, they get through that gate," McClain told the Press-Enterprise.