SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – October 2006

Survival Story: Surviving a Grizzly Attack in Glacier National Park

On August 25, 2005, Johan Otter and his 18-year-old daughter, Jenna, hiked right into the worst nightmare of any Glacier National Park backpacker: a 300-pound mother grizzly protecting two cubs. Here, in his own words, the 45-year-old physical therapist from Escondido, CA, shares the incredible story of their life-and-death struggle.

by: Julie Cederborg (as told by the Otters)


The bear had gone back to Jenna. When it lunged at her, she extended her hands and grabbed it around the throat. I think that was when Jenna realized she needed to play dead instead. She quickly curled up in the fetal position. The bear bit her face and then her shoulder. She didn't flinch. It finally gave up and left, probably to retrieve its cubs.

After her initial scream, I didn't hear anything more, so I figured the bear wasn't on her. But I didn't make a sound myself for fear that it would turn back to me. At this point, I couldn't do anything to help Jenna, because I was pretty beaten up. I assessed my wounds. I didn't see any arterial bleeds, but when I touched the top of my head, I felt nothing but bone. I covered my left eye to find out if I could see anything out of my right eye, which had been clawed, and I managed to make out Grinnell Lake.

I waited a little longer, then I yelled for Jenna. She called back immediately. And her voice was strong. That was the best sound I've ever heard.

After Jenna fell, she had crawled under some bushes and next to a rock for some protection. We were about 30 feet apart. The first thing I asked when I called to her was how her eyes were. Fine, she said, but she had wounds on her face and her shoulder.

I crawled to a ledge, leaving my backpack and a trail of blood behind. I pulled the hood of my jacket over my head, just to cover up my scalp so people wouldn't have to see me. A ranger told me afterwards that I actually created a seal to stop the bleeding.

Jenna and I were only 30 feet apart, but we were too weak to get to each other. And later, when the rescuers came, they didn't want to move us. So I didn't see Jenna until after my surgery more than a week later. But that was a good thing. When I saw pictures of how I looked, it was bad. I was covered in blood, and you could see my skull.

For the next 45 minutes, we yelled for help.

I don't remember much until a guy came sliding down the mountain with his eyes wide open. His wife ran back down the trail and eventually found a ranger-led group on its way to the glacier. That ranger radioed for help.

It was a long 2 hours before medical personnel reached us. During the wait, more hikers stopped. Two boys retrieved my backpack and camera. Others covered us up with their jackets. We were bloody, but they didn't care.

When the rangers arrived, they started treatment, but it was another 4 hours until a helicopter arrived to lift us out.

My blood pressure dropped to 80/30, and I lost about half of my blood. An artery going through my scalp was torn. But pain was not an issue. Yes, I was hurting, but it wasn't something I concentrated on. I was just so happy to see people.



Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Jerry W Doyle
Aug 15, 2014

I have an additional comment I wish to share with readers. I know of several persons and friends who sustained injuries from bear attacks. They had their scalps peeled off their heads, one lost her right eye that was torn from its' socket and also lost both breasts when the bear's razor sharp paws swiped across her chest cavity ripping it open. The female friend attack happened on the Alaskan Kenai Peninsula. She survived as did the others persons and friends I know who sustained these horrendous bear attacks. It is worthy to note that not a single victim has harsh words to say about the bear that attacked them. Each recognized that they were guests in the bears' habitat and also recognized that they failed inadvertently to remain vigilant during the whole period of being in the bears' habitat. Anytime we let our guard down we increase exponentially the possibility of a bear attack.

Jerry W Doyle
Alexandria, LA

Star Star Star Star Star
Jerry W Doyle
Aug 15, 2014

Thanks for sharing this horrific experience with us. Let us hope that your experience leaves an indelible impression on the minds of us all to make noise on the trail while in bear country and to not only carry bear spray on our person but to know fully how to use it when the need arises. I backpack and hike "solo," often in Canada and Alaska where there are large browns. I personally carry not only bear spray, but a 5.5 oz canister sports horn that when blasted can be heard up to a mile away, as loud as the air horn on a tractor trailer truck. Pepper spray is of little use to the backpacker or hiker traveling up-wind. Consequently, this is my choice for carrying the air canister blaster, although one never will hear Park or Forest Rangers advocate use of these protectorates, even though Stephen Herrero makes mention of their use in his book.

We must remember that it is "we," who are the invited guests in wilderness areas and must conform to the environment and respect the potential dangers it exposes to us to enjoy the solitude and oneness with nature to its fullest. That means learning as much as we can absorb about wilderness inhabitants and the dangers that await us if we are not prepared fully to adapt to what nature throws our way.

Jerry W Doyle
Alexandria, LA

Star Star Star Star Star
bobert jomugus
Feb 11, 2014

hi

Star Star Star Star Star
randy
Nov 19, 2013

Wortha = IDIOT!

Star Star Star Star Star
TJ
Nov 19, 2013

Thank you for sharing this story.
But...
"Later I learned that Jenna had seen the bear spray on the trail and picked it up. She didn't know she had to release the safety lever before she sprayed."

Let's hope she knows how to use it now. Let's also hope that you keep your spray within reach.

You caught lightening in a bottle once. Might not happen twice.

Star
Wortha
Aug 31, 2013

"People have asked me how I feel about bears after the attack. Well, I don't find them as cute as I used to. They can kill. But I realize they are an animal we need to have around. And grizzlies are a sign of true America. They are a symbol of wilderness at its purest–and of an ecosystem that is intact. You need to be really respectful of that, and the dangers that go with it."

And for exactly what reason do we need to keep them around?
A sign of true America??? What does that mean?
There is no pure America--at what point was it "pure"?? It has constantly evolved; what does he man by an intact ecosystem? It is nothing like it was when griz were the top of the food chain a century ago. We didn't have the population expansion into ALL areas, there was plenty of habitat and food sources--now habitat is shrinking and key diet diet sources are disappearing in good part due to human causes. Now we have, by some misguided sense of altruism, reintroduced a killing machine into areas we as citizens have supported and paid for so that we may preserve these special places going forward and therefore be able to respectfully enjoy them--and not with the anxiety and stress of having to be aware of possibly horrific griz attacks.
Of course the bear is probably doing what comes naturally! It doesn't have the capacity to stop and think like we humans do..WE are responsible for every bear attack that has resulted in injury and death not only to innocent humans but also to bears. It is time we stopped trying to act like a god!

nick
Dec 29, 2010

not true

Anonymous
May 20, 2010

Hey

sean
Oct 30, 2008

hi

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Gear
Ruined jacket in dryer
Posted On: Aug 31, 2014
Submitted By: ponderosa
Trailhead Register
Trekking the Huayhuash
Posted On: Aug 31, 2014
Submitted By: ponderosa

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

>
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions