Photographer Mauled by Grizzly Bear in ‘Surprise’ Encounter

photographer mauled grizzly bear national park wyoming

A photographer was left seriously injured after being mauled by a grizzly bear in a “surprise encounter” as he was trying to shoot pictures of a great grey owl.

According to a news release by the National Park Service, photographer and Army veteran Shayne Patrick Burke was attacked by a mother grizzly bear protecting her cub in Signal Mountain in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming on Sunday.

‘The Most Violent Thing I Have Ever Experienced’

In an Instagram post on Thursday, Burke shared photos of his injuries and recounted his near-death experience with the grizzly bear — describing the attack as “the most violent thing I have ever experienced.”

The wildlife photographer says he set out into the woods in Signal Mountain alone, telling his wife that he wanted to go take pictures of a great grey owl before they left. Burke told his wife that he would meet back up with her in the parking lot in one hour.

When he realized that he had been gone for more than an hour, Burke says he “decided to B-line it back to the car” using his phone’s GPS as he knew his wife would start to worry about him.

However, as Burke made his way back to the parking lot, he saw a grizzly bear cub running up a hill about 70 yards in front of him.

The photographer knew that seeing the cub wasn’t a good sign and he immediately unholstered his bear spray. But, before he could do anything, the mother grizzly bear was charging at him.

‘She Went in for a Kill Bite on My Neck’

Burke says he tried to stand his ground by shouting at the animal and attempting to deploy the spray. But the mother grizzly bear closed the gap and attacked. It bit and slashed at his back right shoulder.

The photographer says that the mother bear then mauled his legs and buttocks, slammed him to the ground, and stood on his back.

“She bit one of my legs, picking me up and slamming me on the ground multiple times,” the photographer writes.

“She bit each leg from my buttocks to my inner knee about three times each.”

At this point, Burke says he “unfortunately” screamed again. This drew the grizzly bear’s attention to his head and it went straight in for a “kill bite” on his neck.

However, throughout the attack, Burke never let go of the can of bear spray. As the grizzly bear tried to bite his neck, it “simultaneously bit the bear spray can. The spray “exploded in her mouth” causing the animal to flee up the hill towards its cubs.

‘I Respect Wildlife’

Burke says he then texted his wife for help as he applied improvised tourniquets to his legs. He then called 911, staying on the phone with the operator so the rescue helicopter could zone in on his location.

Grand Teton National Park rangers and Teton County Search and Rescue responded and provided emergency medical care to Burke before he was transported to the hospital where he is recovering.

Despite the horrifying attack, the former army reservist says he has told park rangers not to kill the grizzly bear.

“I love and respect wildlife. Anyone who knows me, knows this about me,” Burke says.

Investigators suspect from the man’s description that the smaller bear he saw was an older cub belonging to the female grizzly that attacked. Mother bears aggressively defend offspring and remain with them for two to three years after birth.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.