grizzly bear
Credit: Jim Peaco/NPS

Grizzly Blasts Self with Bear Spray While Attacking Hiker

Officials say the hiker had it in his hand during the attack and the bear bit into it.

The 35-year-old hiker mauled by a grizzly bear in Grand Teton National Park earlier this week was saved by bear spray but not the way you might think. The bear reportedly sprayed itself with the potent chemical substance.

National park officials say the bear attack happened on May 19 after the man surprised two grizzlies while hiking along Signal Mountain. Then, one of the bears confronted him, so he grabbed his bear spray. However, the bear started biting him before he could depress the trigger.

While clutching the spray with one finger, the hiker played dead as the bear bit into him several times. Finally, the bear bit into the canister and got hit with a burst of the spray before running off.

Afterward, the man got to an area with cell service and called for help. Later first responders transported him by helicopter to a nearby hospital, where medical staff listed him in stable condition. Officials say he's expected to make a full recovery.

Following the attack, the park closed off access to Signal Mountain's 7,700-foot summit, which visitors can access by car or foot. However, they have not said when they will reopen it.

Additionally, officials told reporters that park rangers would not pursue the bear, saying its behavior was consistent with how a grizzly would behave if surprised. They also said it may have been trying to protect a cub and explained that mother bears will aggressively defend their babies.

READ THE HIKER'S STORY HERE: 'The Most Violent Thing I Have Ever Experienced' Says Hiker Mauled by Grizzly Bear

Avoiding Grizzly Bear Attacks

Even though the hiker followed park recommendations to avoid a bear attack — he made noise as he hiked and carried bear spray — they continue to say that's the best guidance to follow.

Officials advise those entering bear territory to exercise bear awareness. That means you should make noise in areas with limited visibility, carry bear spray, and hike with a group. They add if you ever encounter a bear, you should back away slowly and never run.

Although bear attacks often receive attention from the media and the public, experts say they're rare, especially in the U.S. According to reports, brown bears killed 11 people between 2020 and 2023. Attacks by black bears, which have a much larger population than grizzlies, happen more often, but it's still pretty rare. Since 2020, black bears killed six people.