Mauled hiker reveals he played dead when grizzly bear attacked – then she accidentally pepper sprayed herself

Grizzly bear in open grassland
(Image credit: Getty)

The hiker who was attacked by a grizzly bear in Grand Teton National Park on Sunday has taken to social media to reveal details of the incident. In an Instagram post, Shayne Patrick Burke reveals he played dead while the bear mauled him, and describes how his bear spray saved his life.

Burke describes himself on his account as a climber and wildlife photographer and explains that he had set out on Signal Mountain in the hopes of photographing a Great Grey Owl. After more than an hour, he was using GPS to navigate back to the parking lot when he realized he may have got in between a bear and her cub.

"I noticed a brown bear cub running up a hill about 50 - 70 yards in front of me. I knew this wasn’t good," writes Patrick, who says he unholstered his bear spray as he saw the mother bear charging towards him and attempted to deploy it.

"As I did she already closed the gap. When she pounced I opted to turn and give her my back and I laid down in the prone position on my belly and braced for the ride, interlocking my hands behind my neck to protect my vitals."

In the post, which you can view below, Burke details how the bear bit him in the legs and started slamming him into the ground. Next, she went for his neck, which he says he believes was a "kill bite," but fortunately for Burke, he was still holding the can of bear spray.

"As she bit my hands in the back of my neck she simultaneously bit the bear spray can and it exploded in her mouth. This is what saved my life from the initial attack."

The bear then ran into the woods, leaving Patrick the opportunity to escape the area. He says he applied makeshift tourniquets to his legs before calling for help. He was then airlifted to a nearby hospital.

Burke, who says he is a disabled veteran and has survived gunfire and IED explosions, says he asked the attending park rangers not to kill the bear, and park officials have confirmed that they will not pursue the bear because she was protecting her cub. The story does, however, highlight the importance of bear awareness.

When hiking in bear country, always practice the following:

  • Be alert and aware of your surroundings.
  • Make noise, especially in areas with limited visibility or when sound is muffled (e.g., near streams or when it is windy).
  • Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and keep it readily accessible.
  • Hike in groups of three or more people.
  • Do not run. Back away slowly if you encounter a bear.

You can learn more in our article on what to do if you meet a bear if you're going to be recreating in bear country.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.