South Hadley Man and Granby High Grad Survives Grizzly Bear Attack in Wyoming
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South Hadley, MA – Shayne Patrick Burke, a 35-year-old Army veteran from South Hadley and Granby High School graduate, is recovering after a harrowing grizzly bear attack in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park last week.

While hiking alone on Signal Mountain, Burke had a gut feeling he wasn’t alone. To ward off potential wildlife encounters, he began talking, singing, and breaking branches. Despite his efforts, a nearby grizzly bear cub was undeterred. Burke wrote in an Instagram post that he saw the cub about 50 to 70 yards away before its mother charged directly at him.

Burke, who graduated from Granby High School in 2008, described the May 19 attack as “the most violent thing I have ever experienced,” surpassing even his past experiences with gunfire, mortar attacks, and IED explosions during his service in the Army Reserves.

Despite suffering severe wounds, Burke expressed no malice toward the bear. In his social media post, he emphasized that the bear was merely defending her cub and that the incident was a case of “wrong place, wrong time.”

“Anyone who knows me knows how much I love and respect wildlife,” Burke wrote. “The second thing I said to the park rangers was, ‘Please don’t kill the bear; she was defending her cub.’ ”

Grand Teton National Park officials have confirmed they will not take any management action against the bear. “Based on initial reports from the injured visitor and preliminary information conducted as part of an ongoing investigation of the site, law enforcement rangers and park biologists believe the incident was a surprise encounter with two grizzly bears,” the Park Service said in a statement on May 20.

Burke’s visit to Signal Mountain was driven by a desire to photograph a great grey owl, a species known to frequent the area. After more than an hour had passed without his return, Burke knew his wife would be worried and decided to head back using his phone’s GPS.

Feeling uneasy, Burke began making loud noises to alert any nearby wildlife of his presence. Just before the mother bear charged, he had unholstered his bear spray but didn’t have time to deploy it. Instead, he lay on his stomach, hands interlocked behind his neck, bear spray still in hand, to protect his vital areas.

The bear attacked fiercely, biting and slashing Burke’s back and legs, then picked him up by his leg and slammed him to the ground multiple times. As Burke screamed, the bear turned her attention to his head and neck. In a fateful moment, as she bit down on his hands, she punctured the bear spray can, which exploded in her mouth, causing her to flee.

Burke ran in the opposite direction and contacted his wife, sending an alarming text: “Attacked.” She quickly called him, and they discussed makeshift tourniquets using backpack straps, camera straps, and fanny pack straps to stem the bleeding.

“I laid alone in the woods gripping my knife with my back to a tree, just hoping the bear wasn’t to return,” Burke said. “At this point, my legs were not working.”

Grand Teton National Park rangers and a Teton County Search and Rescue team responded to the scene. They dressed Burke’s wounds and airlifted him to an ambulance that transported him to St. John’s Hospital in Jackson, Wyoming.

Medical staff cleaned and closed Burke’s wounds. He was discharged on Monday and is expected to make a full recovery. In response to the attack, the park has closed all trails on Signal Mountain.

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