Montana grizzly attack video posted to Facebook the latest in a series of bear encounters
Warning: The story below contains graphic images and video of head and arm wounds
A gruesome grizzly attack documented on Facebook by a wounded Montana man before he even made it to hospital is the latest in a growing number of bear encounters in the area, according to wildlife officials.
"Life sucks in bear country," says a bloodied man identified as Todd Orr in a video posted to Facebook on Sunday that has amassed 22 million views in less than 24 hours.
"I just had a grizzly with two cubs come at me from about 80 yards."
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In the video footage, Orr appears to have a gaping head wound above one ear and at one point he pans the camera to show "the pieces of stuff hanging out" of the wounds on his forearm.
"I think my arm's broke but my legs are good, internal organs are good, eyes are good," he says. "I just walked out three miles and now I've got to go to the hospital."
In a written online account of the Oct. 1 incident, Orr describes hiking in the Madison Valley area southwest of Bozeman, Mont., on Saturday morning and coming across a female grizzly with cubs as he entered an open meadow.
"The sow saw me right away and they ran a short distance up the trail. But suddenly she turned and charged straight my way," he wrote.
"I yelled a number of times so she knew I was human and would hopefully turn back. No such luck. Within a couple seconds, she was nearly on me. I gave her a full charge of bear spray at about 25 feet. Her momentum carried her right through the orange mist and on me."
'Each bite was like a sledge hammer'
All Orr could do at that point was use his arms to protect the back of his neck as the bear bit down on him.
"The force of each bite was like a sledge hammer with teeth," he wrote. "She would stop for a few seconds and then bite again. Over and over. After a couple minutes, but what seemed an eternity, she disappeared."
Orr says he then got up and began half walking, half jogging the five kilometres back to this truck, worried more about putting distance between him and the bear than stopping to dress his wounds.
About five or 10 minutes later, he says the bear suddenly reappeared.
"She either followed me back down the trail or cut through the trees and randomly came out on the trail right behind me. Whatever the case, she was instantly on me again," he wrote. "I couldn't believe this was happening a second time! Why me? I was so lucky the first attack, but now I questioned if I would survive the second."
'I thought this was the end'
Orr says he continued to protect this neck and one bite from the bear went through to the bone of one of his arms, rendering it numb and his hand unusable. Further bites to his head opened up scalp wounds that poured blood into his face and eyes.
"I thought this was the end," he wrote. "She would eventually hit an artery in my neck and I would bleed out in the trail ... But I knew that moving would trigger more bites so [I] laid motionless hoping it would end."
Then, suddenly, the bear stopped biting.
"I will never forgot that brief moment," Orr wrote. "Dead silence except for the sound of her heavy breathing and sniffing. I could feel and her breath on the back of my neck, just inches away. I could feel her front claws digging into my lower back below my backpack where she stood. I could smell the terrible pungent odor she emitted. For thirty seconds she stood there crushing me ... And then she was gone."
Bleeding more now but still not enough to worry more about blood loss than getting away from the grizzly, Orr says he got up and continued jog-walking back to his truck, where he "snapped a couple quick photos and a video" before getting in the vehicle and driving to a hospital.
In addition to a large laceration on his scalp, he says he suffered a chipped ulna bone in his forearm and it took eight hours of stitching to seal up all his bite and scratch wounds.
Bear incidents on the rise in Montana
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks confirmed it is investigating the grizzly attack and planning to temporarily close access to the area where it occurred, but is still working to sort out exactly what happened.
Spokesman Ron Aasheim said he's particularly interested in Orr's account of discharging his bear spray to no avail.
"This is the first instance we've ever heard of ... where a bear actually ran through bear spray," Aasheim said.
A direct blast of the pepper spray will typically ward off a bear, he said, although it's possible in the heat of the moment it wasn't deployed most effectively.
"You never know what happened, if it wasn't directed right at the bear or if the distance was too great," he said. "I'm not suggesting anything; you just don't know."
This is fifth encounter between a grizzly and a human in the area this season, Aasheim said.
He said "there's no question" that the number of grizzlies in Montana has grown since conservation efforts were put in place after the species was listed as threatened in the 1970s.
At that time, the population was estimated at 200 bears and a recovery goal of 500 was set.
"We're up now over 700 in that ecosystem," Aasheim said.
"When I grew up in the Gallatin country, which is a little bit east of there but grizzly bear country now, we didn't even think about this stuff," he added.
"It gets your attention when you start hearing about this and all of us now pack bear spray. It's a different world."
Bozeman is about 800 kilometres south of Calgary.
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