I Sur­vived a Griz­zly Bear At­tack

Reader's Digest International - - Bonus Read - BY TODD ORR

Last October, I took an early morn­ing hike in the Madi­son Val­ley in south­west Mon­tana. Know­ing that bears are com­mon through­out the area and not want­ing to sur­prise one, I hollered out, “Hey, bear!” ev­ery 30 sec­onds.

About three miles in, I stepped out into a meadow and hollered again. A few more steps and I spot­ted a griz­zly bear with her cubs on the trail at the up­per end of the meadow. The sow saw me right away, and they all ran up the trail. But then she stopped, turned, and charged straight for me.

I yelled so she would know I was hu­man and hope­fully turn back. No such luck. I gave her a full charge of bear spray at about 25 feet. Her mo­men­tum car­ried her right through the or­ange mist and onto me.

I dived face-first into the dirt and wrapped my arms around the back of my neck for pro­tec­tion. She was on top of me, bit­ing my arms, shoul­ders, and back­pack. The force of each bite was like a sledge­ham­mer with teeth. Over and over she bit me.

Af­ter what felt like hours but was

merely min­utes, she dis­ap­peared. Stunned, I care­fully picked my­self up. I was able to walk, so I half hiked and half jogged back down the trail to­ward my truck, three miles be­low. I had nu­mer­ous bleed­ing punc­ture wounds on my arms and shoul­der, but I knew I would sur­vive and thanked God for get­ting me through this.

About five or ten min­utes down the trail, I heard a sound and turned. It was the griz, bear­ing down at 30 feet. I was lucky af­ter the first at­tack, but could I sur­vive a sec­ond?

Again I pro­tected the back of my neck with my arms and kept tight against the ground to pro­tect my face and eyes. She slammed down on top of me and bit my shoul­der and arms. One bite on my fore­arm went through to the bone, and I heard a crunch. My hand in­stantly went numb, and the wrist and fin­gers were limp and un­us­able.

The sud­den pain made me flinch and gasp for breath. That sound trig­gered a frenzy of bites to my shoul­der and up­per back. I knew I couldn’t move or make a sound again, so I hud­dled, mo­tion­less. An­other cou­ple bites to my head caused a gash to open above my ear, nearly scalp­ing me. The blood gushed over my face and into my eyes. I didn’t move. I thought this was the end. She would even­tu­ally hit an artery in my neck, and I would bleed out on the trail.

Sud­denly she stopped. There was dead si­lence ex­cept for the sound of her heavy breath­ing and sniff­ing. I could feel her breath on the back of my neck and her front claws dig­ging into my lower back be­low my pack, where she stood. I could smell the ter­ri­ble, pun­gent odor she emit­ted. For 30 sec­onds, she stood there crush­ing me—my chest smashed into the ground, my fore­head in the dirt. And then she was gone.

I tried to peek out, but my eyes were full of blood and I couldn’t see. I knew that if she came back a third time, I’d be dead, so I wiped the blood from one eye and looked around. No bear. I stood up and moved quickly down the trail again.

Forty-five min­utes later, I got into my truck and drove 17 miles to the hospi­tal. It took doc­tors eight hours to stitch me back to­gether. Most punc­tures and tears were on my arms and shoul­der. A five-inch gash along the side of my head will leave a nasty scar.

The next day, I woke up with dark bruis­ing in the shape of claws across my lower back where the bear had stood on me.

Not my best day, but I’m alive.

I could feel her breath on the back of my neck and her front claws dig­ging into my back.

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