Veteran speaks out after fighting off grizzly bear while on honeymoon

ByMatt Gutman ABCNews logo
Thursday, May 30, 2024
Veteran speaks out after fighting off grizzly bear while on honeymoon
It's a harrowing survival story and somehow he lived to tell the tale.

GRAND TETONS, Wyo. -- A veteran is sharing his harrowing survival story after he came face-to-face with a grizzly bear while on his honeymoon. The bear was said to have been protecting her cub and he somehow lived to tell the tale.

Chloe and Shayne Patrick Burke were hiking on a honeymoon in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. The couple was not just celebrating their marriage, but also Shayne's recovery from a brain tumor.

"I was moving. I was just like, just watching my GPS," he recalled.

The couple split up and Shayne was trying to find a particular owl -- but that wasn't the animal he encountered.

"It was close enough for me to identify that it was definitely a cub," Shayne said.

Once he registered that it there was a cub in front of him, he immediately noticed an adult grizzly bear charging in his direction.

"I locked up and I just -- it's the decision making in such a fearful moment. It's insane how fast it all happens. I don't know. I just went to pure instinct," he recalled.

He had bear spray but not enough time to use it.

"I just was like, okay, I'm not going to just be able to spray this animal. That's when I ducked and covered," he said, recalling the near-death experience. "She just bit down on each leg, and she picked me up and kind of thrashed me around. She went towards my head but I kept my hands interlocked like this and just like -- protect my arteries and my neck. She bit down and got my left wrist and my right hand. I heard a pop and at that point in my head I was like, all right, she's in my skull."

But it wasn't his skull. It was the spray can.

After a taste of that, the mama bear ran off.

"Then, the pepper kind of hit me, and I was like, 'you're still alive,'" Shayne told himself.

He was alive but badly wounded. He scrambled up a hill and managed to get a call through to his wife who is also an EMT.

"I said, 'I got attacked by a grizzly bear. I'm not sure exactly the damage yet.' So she goes right into EMT mode telling me to improvise tourniquets," Shayne recalled.

"I hung up the phone not knowing if I had spoken to my husband for the last time," Chloe said.

Eventually, the rangers found him. And the first thing he tells them is, "I was just like, 'Please don't kill the bear. She was just defending her cub.' And they said, 'That's very admirable of you.'"

And in fact, the rangers decided he was right. So everyone survived the day.

"The brain tumor surgery, well, I was good after that. You know, but the universe decided to test me again, I guess," Shayne said.

"No one ever starts their day with 'I'm gonna get attacked by a bear today.' But it happened to us," Chloe said. "I'm really grateful that my husband was prepared and had these wonderful instincts to be able to preserve his life and make it back to us."

While Shayne only spent a single night in the hospital, his recovery will last for months. Experts say Shayne did everything right. If a grizzly bear charges or attacks, you should play dead. Lie flat on your stomach, and cover your head and neck with your arms, and try to play dead as long as you can. If the attack persists, only then should you fight back with everything you have.