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Saanich resident Brent Case says the bear came from behind him, and started gnawing at the back of his head before tearing away at his scalp. ((CBC))

A 53-year-old man managed to drive to safety after a grizzly bear mauled his head and tossed him to the ground in the woods near Bella Coola, about 700 kilometres north of Vancouver.

The attack took place on May 3 when Brent Case was on a surveying job along the rugged Central Coast area.

"He came up from behind me and started gnawing at the back of my head. It just started ripping the scalp off the head," Case, who lives in Saanich, B.C., told CBC News on Friday.

"The pain was so excruciating that I don't know why I didn't yell or scream, but I just said, 'I have to play dead.'"

Case dropped down in the fetal position and tried to hang on, but the adult grizzly ripped into his left arm, leaving ugly wounds.

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Brent Case says the grizzly attacked the back of his head and then mauled both his arms. ((CBC))

The bear then went for his right arm and bit through the muscle, just missing a major artery, Case said.

"He's eating my gristle and he's gnawing on my head. I was saying, 'He's eating my brains. I can feel it.' I know it's happening and I said, 'God! I hope it gets over soon'" he said.

"I said, 'I'm too young to die. I don't want to die,' and then he stopped."

The bear suddenly seemed to have enough and pushed him into the mud, still grunting and snorting, Case said.

The bear then moved off after the attack. With the grizzly only metres away, Case said he carefully made his way to his nearby truck.

Drives 25 km to safety

His hands were so swollen and bloody, he could barely get his keys out of his pocket, said Case, an experienced outdoorsman.

"I knew that if I didn't drive and have the fortitude to control things, I was going to die."

Case then drove 25 agonizing kilometres to the closest town to seek help. He finally reached a gas station and asked the attendant to call for an ambulance.

"I think my brains are hanging out," he said. "I don't know what's happening here, but I'm alive. I started wiggling my fingers and toes."

A local game warden later found the bear, and shot and killed it.

Case is now recovering from numerous wounds and has received plastic surgery.

"I said [to the doctors], 'There's nothing hanging out that you're not telling me?' They said, 'No, you're okay.'"

"They started using the peroxide and, 'Ooh,' I said, 'that hurt more than the bear!'"