Some guys have all the luck.
Then there's Rick Oliver, who might be one of the unluckiest men in North Carolina, if not the world.
A bear mauled Oliver in his front yard a few weeks ago. "It was like getting struck by lightning," he said.
Turns out Oliver might be one of the few people in the world capable of accurately making the bear-lightning analogy.
And for Oliver, 51, the two incidents seem to go hand in hand.
Ever since he was struck by lightning in 2006, Oliver says, he's had trouble sleeping. On restless nights, he tends to piddle about his farm, checking on his chickens, working on his tractors and, as he was in the wee hours of June 3, fixing up his Chevy Malibu.
About 2 a.m., he heard a distant rustling on his 17-acre spread between Raleigh and Cary. As he turned to investigate, he was dealt a heavy blow. "I heard this strange huffing," Oliver said. "And the next thing I know, I had been run over and stepped on by a bear."
The black bear's claws gouged his wrist so deeply that, when he got to his farmhouse, blood spewed onto the floor "like a hose," he said.
"That was when my daughter said, 'Dad we need to take you to the emergency room.' "
The biggest cut was so deep and wide that doctors at WakeMed Cary Hospital couldn't sew it up. They bandaged Oliver and told him to keep pressure on the lacerations.
Nature 2, Oliver 0.
The chances of being attacked by a bear are rather slim, biologists say. Fatal attacks are even slimmer: Between 2005 and 2009, only nine people were killed by bears in the United States, according to the state Wildlife Resources Commission. Compare that to the 141 people killed by dogs during the same period, and you get the idea.
The chances of being struck by lightning are extremely narrow. "You have a greater chance of getting struck by lightning than getting killed by a bear," says a report published by the U.S. Forest Service's Bear Aware program.
It doesn't take a math whiz to figure out the extreme unlikelihood of both happening to the same person.
"The probability is infinitesimal," said Ross Leadbetter, a statistician at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "The closest approximation is certainly zero."
The odds get thinner still in North Carolina, where people vastly outnumber omnivorous bears. About 11,000 bears live in the state, with few in the Raleigh and Cary area, said Joe Folta, a wildlife biologist at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Those that do are young ones that "have been chased off by the bigger bears from the eastern and northern part of the state."
Young bears commonly travel through the Piedmont region in search of food or love during mating season, said Folta, who has studied bears for 25 years. Black bears will usually run the other way when confronted with danger.
"The best thing to do with a black bear is to clap, bark or make a loud noise and make yourself look bigger to scare them away," he said. "It's not uncommon to find a bear going through your garbage, or even destroying your barbecue grill or bird feeder."
Oliver, vacationing last week in Myrtle Beach, S.C., admits he may have left something to attract the bear. "Leftovers," Oliver says, "from lunch in a bag up on the top step."
(E-mail Paul A. Specht at aspecht(at)nando.com.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)
Must credit The News and Observer of Raleigh, N.C.
Copyright 2010 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.