In one of the most impressive survival stories we’ve heard lately, 48-year-old Alaska native Toby Burke fought off a brown bear with his bare hands and a piece of birdwatching equipment.
The biologist was with his wife and three children on the Kenai Peninsula in southern Alaska when the attack occurred. Burke’s 11-year-old daughter saw the bear approaching from behind. When the animal began to run toward the family, Burke shielded his wife and kids from the attack.
As the bear came within reach, Burke lodged his birdwatching telescope in the animal’s mouth. When the bear snapped the instrument in two, Burke used the sharp end to stab the animal in the face. The bear managed to knock the scope away from Burke and bit his left arm. However, Burke was able to use his other hand to punch the bear in the face. At that point, the bear gave Burke a final slam to the ribcage and walked away.
“I definitely felt a crushing sensation when it clamped down on my arm,” Burke told ABC. “Fortunately, because I had heavy layers of clothing on, I’m basically just really bruised up.”
Brown bear attacks on humans are very rare, wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger told The Anchorage Daily News, so there’s no clear reason for the incident. Only 20 people died from bear attacks in Alaska betweeen 1900-1985.