Massachussetts Army Veteran Details Near-Death Encounter With Grizzly Bear

By Maria Angelino | Wednesday, 29 May 2024 10:30 AM
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Image Credit : People Magazine

In a horrifying encounter at Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, a Massachusetts man was brutally mauled by a grizzly bear.

Shayne Patrick Burke, a 35-year-old Army veteran, described the incident as the "most violent" ordeal he has ever faced, surpassing even his military experiences.

Burke was hiking up Signal Mountain last Sunday, intending to photograph a Great Grey Owl. He noticed a bear cub nearby and was immediately aware of the potential danger. "I knew it wasn’t good," he said.

Suddenly, he found himself in a "surprise encounter" with the cub's mother, a grizzly bear that charged towards him. Burke tried to deter the bear by shouting and making noise, a tactic he had learned could prevent such confrontations. "I was breaking branches, singing, and talking to myself aloud," he said.

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When the bear pounced, Burke made a split-second decision to protect his vital organs. "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," he recounted in an Instagram post.

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The grizzly bear attacked, biting and slashing Burke's back and right shoulder before moving on to his leg. The bear lifted him, slammed him onto the ground multiple times, and bit his leg from his buttocks to his inner knee about three times.

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Burke believes the bear was attempting a fatal bite to his neck. "I still had my hands interlocked and my arms protecting my carotid arteries. I never let go of the bear spray can," he said.

In a remarkable turn of events, the bear bit into the bear spray can, causing it to explode in her mouth. "This is what saved my life from the initial attack. I heard her run away, I looked up and instantly ran in the opposite direction up a hill," Burke explained.

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After the attack, Burke applied "improvised tourniquets" to his legs to slow the bleeding and called 911. Despite his legs "not really working," he managed to crawl to a clearing to facilitate his rescue by a helicopter.

Burke was airlifted to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming, for surgery. He was alert and responsive throughout the rescue, with hypothermia being a significant concern.

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Despite the traumatic experience, Burke harbors no resentment towards the bear. "I love and respect wildlife. Anyone who knows me knows this about me," he said. He urged park rangers not to kill the bear, arguing that she was merely "defending her cub."

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Reflecting on the incident, Burke said, "What happened up on Signal Mountain was a case of wrong place, wrong time. Sunday afternoon, I was attacked by a mother grizzly protecting her cub." He noted that despite being a disabled Army veteran who had "experienced being shot at, mortared, and IED explosions," this bear attack was the "most violent thing" he had ever experienced.

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