black belt defender logo

free shipping on orders over $49

We're having a 15% off sale on all our products. Enter your email below to be notified about future sales.

credit card logos
bear bites bear spray can

Follow-up to a chilling encounter with a grizzly bear in Grand Teton National Park left Shayne Patrick Burke, a 35-year-old disabled Army veteran with severe injuries, but also a tale of survival and quick thinking that likely saved his life. The incident, which unfolded on the afternoon of May 19, 2024 near the isolated Signal Mountain area, began when Burke unexpectedly came across a bear cub while exploring a wooded area for wildlife photography.

The Encounter

Burke, who had separated from his wife to photograph a Great Grey Owl, stumbled upon a bear cub approximately 50-70 yards ahead. Realizing the potential danger, he quickly unholstered his bear spray, a precautionary measure for such encounters. However, the mother bear charged at him before he could effectively deploy it. Facing the charging bear, Burke made a split-second decision to protect himself: “I opted to turn and give her my back, laying down in the prone position on my belly, and braced for the attack,” he recounted.

Despite his efforts to shield his vital areas by interlocking his hands behind his neck, the bear mauled him, inflicting multiple bites and slashes across his body, particularly focusing on his legs and back. In a dramatic turn of events, as the bear bit into his neck, it inadvertently bit into the bear spray can Burke was holding, causing it to explode. The spray’s discharge startled the bear, providing Burke with a critical moment to escape.

The Aftermath

Severely injured, Burke managed to distance himself from the site and used his remaining strength to contact his wife and emergency services. His military training kicked in as he applied improvised tourniquets to slow the bleeding. “I laid alone in the woods gripping my knife, back to a tree, hoping the bear wouldn’t return,” he described the terrifying wait for help.

Rescue personnel, guided by his 911 call and helicopter triangulation, eventually located him. Burke was airlifted to St. John Hospital in Jackson, where he underwent emergency surgery for the numerous lacerations sustained during the attack.

Bear Safety Tips

This harrowing experience serves as a potent reminder of the dangers posed by wildlife, particularly in regions inhabited by grizzly bears. Here are some crucial safety tips for outdoor enthusiasts:

  • Carry Bear Spray: Always have bear spray accessible and know how to use it. Burke’s encounter demonstrates that even when an attack is imminent, bear spray can be a lifesaver.
  • Stay Alert: Always be aware of your surroundings, especially in areas known for bear activity. Avoid hiking alone and make noise to decrease the chance of surprising a bear.
  • Do Not Run: If you encounter a bear, never run. Remain calm, slowly back away, and speak in a firm tone to avoid provoking a charge.
  • Secure Food and Trash: Keep food and garbage secured in bear-proof containers, especially overnight. Never leave food unattended as it can attract bears.
  • Know Bear Behavior: Understanding bear behavior can help you react appropriately during encounters. Bears are generally defensive and attack only if surprised or threatened, particularly when cubs are present.

Reflections and Recovery

Despite the severity of the incident, Burke harbors no ill will towards the bear, recognizing the encounter as a stroke of misfortune — a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His story highlights the unpredictable nature of wildlife and underscores the importance of preparedness and respect for nature.

As Burke continues his recovery, this incident has prompted discussions about safety measures and the interactions between humans and wildlife. The National Park Service has opted not to pursue the bear, citing natural behavior in defense of its cub. This decision aligns with policies that preserve the natural ecology and acknowledge the shared spaces between humans and wildlife.

This ordeal underscores the critical need for vigilance and preparedness when venturing into bear territories. By taking proactive safety measures and respecting wildlife, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the natural beauty of such environments while minimizing risk.

As always, be safe and be prepared.


See Also:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *