Army Veteran Survives Grizzly Bear Attack in Wyoming

Shayne Patrick Burke was recently attacked by a grizzly bear in Grand Teton National Park in a harrowing incident. Burke, a disabled Veteran of the Army Reserve, was hiking in the woods of Signal Mountain on Sunday, May 19, where he hoped to spot a great grey owl.

“I told my wife I would be back at the parking lot in one hour. At the time of the attack, about 1.25 hours had passed,” wrote Burke in an Instagram post. “At this point, I knew she would be getting worried, so I decided to B-line it back to the car using my GPS in my phone… I started to walk fast to that location. I had a really uncomfortable feeling.”

Burke was making his way through thick cover. Despite making noise, he startled a grizzly sow and her cub. First, he spotted the cub running uphill about 50 yards in front of him and immediately knew he was in trouble. He unholstered his bear spray just in time to see the sow charging at him. He was unable to deploy the spray before the bruin reached him.

“When she pounced, I opted to turn and give her my back and I laid down in the prone position on my belly and braced for the ride, interlocking my hands behind my neck to protect my vitals,” wrote Burke. “I screamed. She then turned, stepping on my back. She bit one of my legs, picking me up and slamming me on the ground multiple times.”

Soon, the bear went for Burke’s head. Through the whole ordeal, he’d managed to hang onto his bear spray. As the bear bit Burke’s hands, it unintentionally sunk its teeth into the bear spray, exploding the canister. This saved Burke’s life. The bear ran off, and he was able to get some distance between him and the bears, apply makeshift tourniquets to his wounds, and call for help.

“Grand Teton National Park rangers and Teton County Search and Rescue personnel responded to the scene to provide emergency medical care and airlifted the patient via helicopter to an awaiting ambulance where he was transported to St. John’s Hospital,” explained the National Park Service in a press release. “Based on initial reports from the injured visitor and preliminary information conducted as part of an ongoing investigation of the site, law enforcement rangers and park biologists believe the incident was a surprise encounter with two grizzly bears, with one of the bears contacting and injuring the visitor.”

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Due to the nature of the attack, officials don’t plan to take any management actions against the bear. The National Park Service warns visitors to take precautions in bear country, including carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. Burke is expected to make a full recovery from his puncture wounds.

“What happened up on Signal Mountain was a case of wrong place wrong time,” he wrote. “It was the most violent thing I have ever experienced [and] I’ve been shot at, mortared, and experienced IED explosions.”

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