Can of Bear Spray Saves Man’s Life During Grizzly Attack
By angelamontana

Posted: May 29, 2024

Have you ever heard of bear spray saving somebody’s life during a grizzly bear attack but not from the actual use of the bear spray?

Shayne Burk is a disabled Army veteran and a nature enthusiast and experienced something he had never experienced before while out seeking a photograph of a Great Grey Owl at Grand Teton National Park…until he accidentally had a face-to-face meeting with a mama grizzly protecting her cub.

Lost in the woods, trying to get back to his car, he suddenly found himself staring at a bear cub. Next thing he knew, mama bear was charging at him. Despite trying to use his bear spray, she got to him quickly. He went into survival mode, covering his vitals, and prepared for one heck of a ride. She bit and tossed him around, but luckily, the bear spray can that he never let go of exploded in her mouth, saving Burke’s life.

He managed to get away, call his wife, and eventually got rescued by a helicopter.  

Take a look at this story in his own words:

I’ve thought long and hard about how I would share my story about my encounter with a female grizzly and her cub.

Let me preface this with how much I love and respect wildlife. Anyone who knows me, knows this about me.In fact, the second thing I said to the park rangers was please don’t kill the bear, she was defending her cub.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.It was the most violent thing I have ever experienced.I’ve experienced being shot at, mortared and IED explosions.I am a disabled Veteran in the Army reserve.

I was walking through the woods on signal mountain looking to photograph a Great Grey Owl. My wife and I had learned that this was a hot spot for the species and I was hopeful id see one. 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.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. Due to poor service, I could only see the parked identification on the gps and my current location.

I started to walk fast to that location.I had a really uncomfortable feeling.I was breaking branches, singing and talking to myself aloud. These are something’s that can help prevent a “surprise encounter” with a brown bear.

I was walking through a thick wooded area in a valley. I over came a feature in the slope to my right and I noticed a brown bear cub running up a hill about 50-70 yards in front of me.I knew this wasn’t good,I unholstered my bear spray and saw the mother bear charging.I stood my ground, shouted and attempted to deploy the bear spray but as I did she already closed the gap. 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.The first bite and slash was on my back / right shoulder.

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. she bit each leg from my buttocks to my inner knee about three times each. The final time I screamed again. this unfortunately but fortunately turned her attention to my head. I believe she went in for a kill bite on my neck. I still had my hands interlocked and my arms protecting my carotid arteries. I never let go of the bear spray can. As she bit my hands in the back of my neck she simultaneously bit the bear spray can and it exploded 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.

Once I put some distance between me and the bear, I attempted to call my wife. It didn’t go through, so I texted “attacked”. she called me back and I told her what happened as I applied improvised tourniquets to my legs. At this point, I knew that I didn’t have any arterial bleeds and I just needed to slow the bleeding in my legs. I laid alone in the woods gripping my knife with my back to a tree just hoping the bear wasn’t to return. Through the phone call with 911 the helicopter was able to triangulate my location since the spotty service wasn’t giving us an accurate location. At this point my legs were not really working.



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