Veteran survives horrifying bear attack while hiking in popular national park

FILE - A Grizzly bear walks with her four cubs along the main highway near Signal Mountain on June 15, 2020 outside Jackson, Wyoming. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

A disabled veteran Army reservist this week described a harrowing grizzly bear attack he survived by playing dead and holding onto his can of bear spray. 

Shayne Patrick Burke, 35, called the attack by the mama grizzly last Sunday the "most violent thing I have ever experienced."

He added in an Instagram post: "I’ve experienced being shot at, mortared and IED explosions." 

Burke said he was walking through the woods at Grand Teton National Park’s Signal Mountain in western Wyoming in an effort to photograph a Great Grey Owl last weekend. 


His wife was waiting for him at the parking lot and he was trying to hurry back when he had a "really uncomfortable feeling. I was breaking branches, singing and talking to myself aloud. These are some things that can help prevent a ‘surprise encounter’ with a brown bear.’"

Then he noticed a bear cub in front of him. "I knew this wasn’t good," he wrote, adding "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." 

With little time to think, he decided to lie on the ground on his stomach so the grizzly would attack his back instead of his front and interlocked his hands behind his neck to "protect my vitals."


He said the bear bit him on the shoulder, legs, buttocks, slammed him to the ground and stood on his back before going for his neck for a "kill bite." 

"I still had my hands interlocked and my arms protecting my carotid arteries," he wrote. "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."

When hurrying back to his wife, he texted her "attacked" and applied improvised tourniquets to his legs. 

While they waited for help to arrive, he filmed a video saying goodbye to his loved ones in case the worst happened. But soon a helicopter and ambulance arrived and he was taken to a hospital. 

"The No. 1 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 with the bear spray," he wrote. "Though I am not sure if I got to spray any at the bear, having it on me and keeping it in my hands while protecting my vitals 100% is the only reason I am telling my story now."

He also thanked the "Jenny Lake Rangers who saved my life." 

He also has no ill will toward the bear, telling the rangers the attack was just "wrong place, wrong time" and the mama bear was simply defending her cub. Park officials have confirmed the bear won’t be captured or killed, which Burke himself urged. 

"In fact, the second thing I said to the park rangers was please don’t kill the bear, she was defending her cub," he wrote, adding, "I love and respect wildlife."

"What happened up on Signal Mountain was a case of wrong place wrong time," he wrote. 

Burke is expected to make a full recovery. 

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