A veteran shares his harrowing story of surviving a bear attack


Shayne Patrick Burke was looking for owls in the Wyoming wilderness but found a grizzly instead.

Just moments after Burke spotted the bear 50 to 70 yards away, he saw a mother grizzly bear charging at it.

“I stood my ground, screamed and tried to apply bear spray, but by the time I did, she had already closed the distance,” he wrote in a Facebook post about the May 19 incident in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. CNN attempted to contact Burke – whose social media location is listed as South Hadley, Massachusetts – but has not received a response.

The encounter, which matches details provided by the National Park Service about the attack on an unnamed man near Signal Mountain, could easily have ended tragically in human death, animal death – or both.

Burke hoped to photograph a great gray owl and hurried across the desert to meet his wife.

With just a few seconds to react, Burke turned his back as the bear lunged, lay down on his stomach “and prepared to ride,” with his hands behind his neck for protection, the post said.

“The first bite and cut was on my back/right arm. I screamed. She then turned around and stepped on my back. “She bit me on one leg, picked me up and threw me on the ground several times,” the post said.

He said the bear bit each leg about three times. He screamed again, giving the final bite, which drew the bear’s attention to his head.

“I think she wanted to bite my neck. My hands and arms were still intertwined, protecting my carotid arteries. “I am never without my can of bear spray,” Burke wrote in the post.

“When she bit my neck, she also bit into the can of bear spray, which exploded in her mouth,” he wrote. That’s what saved him from the first attack, he said.

“It was the most brutal thing I have ever experienced,” he wrote in a social media post. “I experienced gunfire, mortar explosions and IEDs. I am a disabled Army Reserve veteran.

The National Park Service did not name Burke, but confirmed that a 35-year-old Massachusetts man was attacked on May 19 “while hiking through a wooded area with limited visibility.” The NPS noted that “the guest was carrying bear spray and was intentionally making noise, based on bear safety information published by the National Park Service.”

The NPS account echoes Burke’s post: “The moment the larger bear made contact with him, he intentionally fell to the ground on his belly in an attempt to play dead. He intertwined his fingers behind his neck, holding a canister of bear spray in one of his fingers,” the NPS said in an email.

The NPS says the rupture of the canister caused the bears to leave the scene.

According to NPS and Burke’s post, it quickly moved to an area with some cell service. A call to his wife didn’t work, so he texted “attacked.”

When she called back, he told her about the encounter while giving himself first aid.

Photos attached to Burke’s social media post show deep wounds on his hand and back.

In his testimony, he noted that he had received advanced first aid training in the army and that his wife had advised him on how to treat his wounds with what he had with him. “I cut backpack straps, camera straps and used Fanny’s backpack straps” to make improvised tourniquets to stop the bleeding.

In a later Facebook post, Burke highlighted the role his wife Chloe played in calling for help, calming him down over the phone and keeping him focused on tending to his wounds and blowing the emergency whistle. On her Facebook profile, she is listed as a paramedic.

NPS said the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received notification of the incident at 4:02 p.m.

With multiple puncture wounds to both legs, Burke knew his situation was dangerous.

“In that moment on that little hill, I came to terms with the fact that I might as well die,” he wrote. “I recorded a short video telling my people that I love them.”


A photo provided by the National Park Service shows an airlift operation.

Fortunately, help arrived on time.

Park rangers were able to locate Burke and provide him with medical attention. He was airlifted to a waiting ambulance and taken to St. John’s Hospital, according to the NPS. John’s Hospital. Burke said in his post that he underwent surgery to clean and stitch his wounds.

According to the park service, the injured man was released from the hospital on May 20 and is “expected to make a full recovery.”

Park rangers and wildlife biologists examined the scene a day after the incident.

“Based on interviews with the injured visitor and evidence found in the area, it is likely that an adult female grizzly bear and at least one older cub were involved in the mauling,” the National Park Service said. Specific bears could not be identified.

The NPS said the bear’s behavior appeared to be a “defensive action” and “no further action by management is warranted at this time.”

This is a clear relief for Burke, who wrote in his post: “The second thing I told the park rangers was please don’t kill the bear, she was protecting her cub.”

“Wrong place, wrong time,” he said.

But Burke was prepared.

“The most important thing that kept me alive during the attack was reading and understanding what to do in the event of a bear attack and being prepared to use bear spray,” he stated in his post.

“Although I’m not sure if I should spray the bear with anything, but wearing it on me and holding it in my hands while protecting 100% of my vitals is the only reason I’m telling my story now.”

The National Park Service has released the following tips for backcountry explorers:

• Be alert and aware of your surroundings.
• Make noise, especially in areas with limited visibility or when the sound is muffled (e.g. near streams or when it is windy).
• Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and keep it somewhere easily accessible.
• Hike in groups of three or more.
• Do not run. If you encounter a bear, back away slowly.