OPP honours 82-year-old survivor of ‘Ruff’ battle with bear

While Norman Ruff wished he had a hammer, his fists ended up being enough

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Not many people have wrestled with a bear – in their home, for twenty minutes – and lived to tell the story.

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But Norman Ruff did just that.

The 82-year-old was presented with an OPP Commissioners Citation this week for fighting off a bear that crawled through an open window at 1:30 a.m. at his Lake Joseph cottage near MacTier on July 31, 2019.

“It’s a pretty big plaque,” Ruff said Thursday of the award he received two days earlier. “They said there are not very many of these ever handed out.”

The senior remembers every exhausting moment of his bear encounter like it was yesterday.

“You never even think of getting into a scrap with a bear,” said the retired contractor, who really wishes a hammer had been close by.

“All I could do was hit him with my fists and that was about it. Just my fists. It’s all I had. I would’ve liked to have gotten to the gun, but then I wouldn’t have found the shells.”

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During the all-out scrap, Ruff — 80 at the time — was protecting not just himself but also his wife Lois, 78.

“I told her to stay in the bedroom,” he recalled. “She was peeking out the doorway. No question she was scared stiff.”

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After about 20 minutes, the bear just seemed to have had enough and left out the front door.

“I was pretty well wore out by the time he got tired enough to leave,” Ruff said. “I just went straight to the washroom and dumped cold water on me. I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not.”

“My wife called 911 right away and as soon as she said ‘there was a bear in the house,’ they were here within no time.”

Paramedics rushed him to hospital in Bracebridge.

“They were all just kind of shaking their heads,” said Ruff, who has since undergone several surgeries to reconstruct a thumb.

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The OPP award now hangs in the same room where Ruff’s battle erupted.

“It’s quite an honour to get this plaque and everything because the cops they just couldn’t believe it,” he said.

The detachment commander in Bracebridge, Insp. Michael Burton — along and Supt. Laura Houliston – presented it to him.

“Mr. Ruff was commended for his bravery,” the OPP said in a statement.

Ruff admitted, unsurprisingly, he “was shook-up pretty good.”

“It’s amazing how strong they are,” he said. “I wasn’t prepared for it at all.”

Neither was the bear, apparently.



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