Alaska Man Fights Off Bear, Walks Away with Minor Injuries

ABC News Blogs
Alaska Man Fights Off Bear, Walks Away with Minor Injuries
.

View photo

Alaska Man Fights Off Bear, Walks Away with Minor Injuries (ABC News)

An Alaska man and his family are counting their blessings after walking away with minor injuries from a hands-on scuffle with a bear.

"When the bear was headed towards us, we were like, 'OK, it's do or die now,'" Toby Burke, a wildlife biologist for Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, told ABC News.

On Sunday afternoon, Burke, 48, along with his wife, Laura, and three children decided to go bird watching along the Alaskan Kasilof River Beach. The sun was out and the skies were clear, but the chilly 30-degree Alaskan air had the family bundled up in layers.

While the two environmentalists were observing through telescopes, they noticed something a bit larger than the typical bird.

"We saw the bear in the distance and we said, 'Hey let's not go down there. Let's stay up here,'" Burke told ABC News.

Burke wasn't too worried. After all, he does live in bear country.

The bear disappeared into the undulating dunes and Burke said he assumed it might have fed on a washed-up marine mammal. Burke and his family turned around and continued their hike through the dunes.

Moments later, they found they were very wrong about the bear's intentions.

"The bear is coming, it's coming towards us!" yelled 11-year-old Grace Burke to her father.

"We were raising our arms and made loud noises," Laura Burke said. "That's supposed to scare the bear away. Instead of running away, it came right towards us."

That's when the bear bounded towards them and Toby Burke yelled to his wife, "Get behind me!"

Laura Burke, with her 7-month old baby on her back, grabbed her two other children to get behind her husband.

"When the bear came at my husband, my 8-year-old, Damien, wanted to run," Laura Burke said. "I remember his dad said, 'Don't run. Stick together!'"

Toby Burke grabbed the first thing in sight: his scope attached to a 6-foot-long tripod.

"I put the scope sideways into the bear's mouth, keeping it away, and it swatted at the scope and severed it," he said.

The severed metal tripod left a sharp shaft, which Burke used to hit the bear in the face to scare it away. Yet it still didn't seem to budge and smacked the tripod out of Burke's hands.

"It was just me between my family and the bear," he said. "At that point, I made physical contact. All I could do was put my left arm up. Then its mouth clamped down on my forearm. So I remember hitting it in the face with my right arm."

After several minutes of scuffling, the bear gave up and ran away, and Burke managed to walk away with minor bruises and scratches.

"I definitely felt a crushing sensation when it clamped down on my arm," he said. "Fortunately, because I had heavy layers of clothing on, I'm basically just really bruised up."

Once the bear had left, Laura Burke called Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Wildlife Troopers to notify them of the bear and warn others on the beach.

"Upon arrival, an investigation revealed a female brown bear was acting erratically by attacking a vehicle, a telephone pole and then, eventually, attack a male walking on the beach," said a news release by the Department of Public Safety.

Two troopers were walking along the tree line when the bear came running out of the woods towards them and it was shot. The deceased bear was released to a local charity.

"I mean, he's very lucky," Megan Peters, a public information officer with the Department of Public Safety, told ABC News. "I'm sure it was terrifying compared to other bear maulings. He's really lucky."

While Burke and his family are still shocked from the encounter, they believe their calm, collected reaction was what saved them.

"We weren't terrified only because we always knew it's a reality when you live up here," Burke said. "We knew this day may come one day. Mentally, we were prepared for that."

View Comments (6535)

Recommended for You

  • 3rd-Party Candidate Jill Stein Escorted From Hofstra by Police Before Presidential Debate

    Police escorted Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein off Hofstra University’s campus this afternoon before tonight’s first presidential debate. Authorities encountered Stein on the college campus in Hempstead, New York, and asked the third-party candidate, who has not garnered enough…

    Good Morning America10 mins ago
  • Presidential Debate: How Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Plan to Deal With Race

    Race relations have been increasingly strained in the United States in recent months in the wake of a string of police-involved shootings and killing of several police officers and they took center stage at the first presidential debate. Clinton said that race remains "a significant challenge" in…

    Good Morning America17 mins ago
  • Most Memorable Lines of the First Presidential Debate

    Clinton and Trump engaged in 90 minutes of nonstop debating, moderated by "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt, to make their case to American voters, explaining why they thought they should occupy the White House. "Now, in all fairness to Secretary Clinton, yes, is that OK? It's very important…

    Good Morning America20 mins ago
  • 10 Moments That Mattered From Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's First Debate

    Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ushered the 2016 presidential campaign into a new phase tonight, and they did it with plenty of barbs. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have lobbed insults at each other from far away for months, but tonight they tried to start their highly anticipated face off on…

    Good Morning America21 mins ago
  • ANALYSIS: Hillary Clinton Baits Donald Trump Into Fight, and He More Than Counters

    Hillary Clinton used the first presidential debate to launch a full frontal attack on Donald Trump, baiting him into fights over his personal finances, taxes, sexism, race relations, business dealings and personal honesty. If Clinton came looking for a fight, she found it. He attacked Clinton…

    Good Morning America21 mins ago
  • Debate Fact-Check: How Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Stack Up

    How often did Trump and Clinton spin facts to fit their arguments? Fact-check #1: Trump claims he did not say global warming is hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by the Chinese.

    Good Morning America34 mins ago
  • 'DWTS' Season 23: Six Couples in Jeopardy After Face-Off Night in Week 3

    In the first ever “Face-Off” night on “Dancing With the Stars,” competitors performed in groups of two against each other, doing the same dance style to different songs.The celebrity who won each matchup won immunity from elimination, leaving six couples in jeopardy going into tomorrow’s two-hour…

    Good Morning America
  • Iowa Mayor Asks Residents in Flood Evacuation Area to 'Please, Please Leave'

    Iowa residents are waiting nervously as the swollen Cedar River rises steadily to its highest levels since a devastating flood in 2008 that caused some $10 billion in damages and took one life. The river in Cedar Rapids is now 19.4 feet, a level at which major flooding can occur, officials said…

    Good Morning America
  • 9 Wounded After Shooting at Houston Shopping Center

    A gunman who wounded nine people near a shopping center in Houston this morning was dressed in a "military-style" uniform and had Nazi emblems, police said. Police shot and killed the gunman and he was pronounced dead on scene, according to the Houston Police Department. More than 75 shell…

    Good Morning America
  • William and Kate Take Canada by Storm

    Driving rain and wind couldn't dampen William and Kate's enthusiasm while touring Bella Bella, British Columbia, today. The royal couple had to modify their plans and scrap an aerial float plane tour of the Great Bear rain forest because of torrential rains but received a traditional welcome by…

    Good Morning America
  • To Fact-Check or Not: Campaigns Disagree on the Role of Debate Moderator

    The diverging views came after Fox News' Chris Wallace, who is moderating the third and final presidential debate, said it is not his job to judge the accuracy of the candidates' statements in real time. It's up to the other person to catch them on that," Wallace told Fox News earlier this month. …

    Good Morning America
  • Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber Split

    Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber are ending their relationship. It is with great love, respect, and friendship in our hearts that we look forward to raising our children together and exploring this new phase of our relationship," they said. Watts, 47, and Schreiber, 48, first connected at the 2005…

    Good Morning America
  • 12-Year-Old Transgender Student Delivers Powerful Speech to School Board to Fight Transphobic Rhetoric

    A 12-year-old transgender boy from Pennsylvania recently received a standing ovation and an "overwhelming amount of support" after delivering a powerful speech to his school board in an effort to counter what he saw as hateful and ignorant rhetoric about trans students, according to his mother. …

    Good Morning America
  • Who Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Invited to the First Presidential Debate

    While the biggest attraction during the presidential debate tonight will be the two candidates on stage, at least some attention will likely be paid to those in the audience. Hillary Clinton's campaign this morning released a partial list of guests invited by the Democratic presidential nominee to…

    Good Morning America
  • Beef, Veal, Bison Products Voluntarily Recalled After E. Coli Outbreak

    A voluntary recall of beef, veal and bison products has been issued by the Adams Farm Slaughterhouse over concerns the products might contain E. coli bacteria, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food Safety and inspection service. At least seven people in four states have been…

    Good Morning America
  • Son Found After 8 Days Lost at Sea, Mother's Fate a Mystery

    The U.S. Coast Guard announced this afternoon that it has decided not to re-open a search for a 54-year-old Connecticut woman who disappeared after she and her son went on a fishing trip last week. Though her son, 22-year-old Nathan Carman, was found alive after eight days at sea, Linda Carman…

    Good Morning America
  • 'The Magnificent Seven' Tops the Weekend Box Office

    "The Magnificent Seven" was the top draw at the box office over the weekend.The remake of the 1960 Western, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt among others, debuted in first place by earning an estimated $35 million.The film was directed by Antoine Fuqua, who previously directed Washington…

    Good Morning America