While bird watching in Alaska with his wife Laura and their three children, Toby Burke was suddenly forced to stand toe-to-toe with a brown bear to protect his family and walked away with only scratches and bruises.
ABC News reported that the family was enjoying a Sunday afternoon bird watching hike in their home state of Alaska and in an instant were face to face with an overly aggressive brown bear. Toby Burke, who is a wildlife biologist for Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, explained that, “We saw the bear in the distance and we said, ‘Hey let’s not go down there. Let’s stay up here.’”
When the bear had seemingly moved on, the Burke family let their guard down and continued on with their business. Burke was then presented with what he called a “do or die” scenario after hearing his 11-year-old Grace scream, “The bear is coming, it’s coming towards us!”
“We were raising our arms and made loud noises. That’s supposed to scare the bear away. Instead of running away, it came right towards us,” Laura explained.
In that moment, Toby was left with no choice but to fight the bear. He yelled, “Get behind me!”
Laura explained that, “When the bear came at my husband, my 8-year-old, Damien, wanted to run. I remember his dad said, ‘Don’t run. Stick together!’”
Toby then turned to the only weapon they had, the birdwatching telescope. He explained, “I put the scope sideways into the bear’s mouth, keeping it away, and it swatted at the scope and severed it.”
After striking the bear in the face with the tripod, Toby eventually lost hold of his weapon and was left to fight with just his hands.
“It was just me between my family and the bear,” Toby recalled.
“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.”
Toby luckily was well bundled up due to the 30 degree weather in Alaska.
He explained, “I definitely felt a crushing sensation when it clamped down on my arm. Fortunately, because I had heavy layers of clothing on, I’m basically just really bruised up.”
The bear eventually gave up and ran away and Laura contacted Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Wildlife Troopers.
The Department of Public Safety explained, “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.”
As the troopers explored the scene, the deranged bear began moving towards them and was lethally shot.
A public information officer from the Department of Public Safety explained , “I mean, he’s very lucky. I’m sure it was terrifying compared to other bear maulings. He’s really lucky.”
Burke says that their knowledge of heavy bear activity in their state was what saved his family.
“We weren’t terrified only because we always knew it’s a reality when you live up here. We knew this day may come one day. Mentally, we were prepared for that.”