It’s been two years since Harold Hayward narrowly escaped a bear attack in the Yosemite Valley, but in the age of social media that was only the beginning.
EARL SPRINGS, GA—It all started with a hike through Yosemite on a trip planned for months as one man’s escape from the drudgery of the daily grind. But for Georgia native Harold Hayward, this was only the beginning of an ordeal that would last years. On that fateful hike, Hayward crossed paths with a ferocious brown bear and was nearly killed.
The bear attacked and left Harold for dead, not realizing his victim was still alive. Once the bear had gone, the severely injured Hayward struggled to reach his phone and dial for help. When park rangers found him and brought him back to the hospital, he thought he’d seen the last of his ursine tormentor. Until he checked his social media and found he had received a tweet from the most unlikely of users. It was the bear who had tried to kill him, and it was a clear threat specifically targeted directly at Hayward.
“The threats started and never stopped,” Hayward said. Even if he blocked the bear and reported it, the creature would open a new account using a fake identity and resume the harassment. “It was like he had a new account ready the moment I blocked another one.”
Not knowing what else to do, Hayward went to the authorities, begging them to do something to stop the constant influx of maltreatment. Investigators found numerous Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and even Pinterest accounts all created by the bear with the sole purpose of threatening and harassing its victim. The bear even opened a MySpace account, leading authorities to hypothesize that the bear may be older than they initially thought. But however much evidence they are able to find, one problem stands in the way.
“The laws on the books just aren’t up to date with this kind of dispute. There is no official statute that says anything about the illegality of bears, or any kind of animal, harassing a human on social media,” said district attorney Kevin Spiegelman. “Our hands are tied.”
But Hayward wasn’t going to let the bear win. He’s taken matters into his own hands and is presenting a bill to congress that would create strict anti-harassment laws for creatures of any species. He has high hopes that one day his tormentor will face justice when the “Hayward Social Media Wildlife Act” passes.
Hayward currently travels the country talking to hikers, hunters, and rangers who have endured similar types of online harassment from aggressive wildlife. “You can’t let the attacks trample your dreams. You have to rise above them,” Hayward said.