'I chose to fight to live': Park ranger shares gruesome details of grizzly bear attack
Published Monday, July 9, 2018 8:39AM PDT Last Updated Friday, July 20, 2018 7:32AM PDT
First, he survived brain cancer. Now, park ranger Jordan Carbery can add a grizzly bear attack to his list of brushes with death.
Carbery first spotted a group of grizzlies last Monday night, and returned to a spot outside his rural Bella Coola, B.C. home the next morning to take photos of a pair of bears in a tree.
"As I approached, I saw two fairly large grizzly bears in a tree and because of the night before, I thought they were the same bears and they were big enough to be on their own," he said.
That mistake nearly cost him his life.
The ranger, who grew up in Langley, had accidentally come between a mother grizzly and her cubs.
Having had "hundreds and hundreds of close black bear encounters," Carbery immediately realized the gravity of the situation.
"She didn't look at me immediately. She was kind of standing sideways to me," he told CTV News in a Vancouver hospital a week later. "When she turned and looked at me, I knew I was in trouble. She locked on and started coming."
Carbery tried to get back to the house, which was about 12 metres behind him, but the animal caught up with him before he could get to the door.
"All of a sudden, I just got hit from behind and sent flying at least 10 feet," he said. "She picked me up by the skull and then dropped me because my scalp ripped."
The bear then picked him up by one of his legs.
"She was trying to destroy me because I was a threat to her cubs," he said. "I was thinking, 'This is it, I'm in trouble, I'm going to die,' but I chose to fight to live."
Carbery said he punched the bear in the head and even used some martial arts moves he'd learned in ranger training, kicking the animal in the face as he lay on his back.
The ranger's efforts created enough room between him and the bear for him to get back into the house, but his battle was far from over.
Without cellphone service or a landline he could use to call for help, Carbery had to drive himself to hospital.
"I talked to myself all the way to the hospital telling myself, 'Don't pass out. Don't pass out. Don't pass out,'" he said.
"I was afraid that I was going to pass out and die and not get any assistance, but I'm a survivor. I'm a fighter. I will do what I need to do to survive. I have a wife and daughter and mom and dad and brother and so I didn't want to be gone for everybody for such a stupid—on my behalf—reason."
Carbery was airlifted to a Vancouver hospital and is now recovering well from surgery, but the incident left him with severe injuries, including a torn scalp and several puncture wounds to his legs. The bear also clawed at his abdomen several times causing serious damage to his abdominal wall behind his navel, also known as an umbilical hernia. Part of Carbery's right ear is also missing and he has several scrapes and scratches on his face.
Conservation officers say this kind of grizzly bear behaviour is not uncommon.
"The reality is the bear's just doing what's natural," said Len Butler of the Conservation Officer Service in Williams Lake. "Be aware. Don't let the urge to take pictures of bears get in the way of common sense."
A pair of runners survived a similar encounter in the Alberta backcountry just last week.
Despite his ordeal, Carbery said he has no one to blame but himself, adding that he still admires the "amazing" creatures.
"I take full responsibility. I made some mistakes that morning. I wasn't thinking it through. I got tunnel vision when I was taking a few pictures of the cubs and before you know it, I was looking in the eyes of a sow griz coming at me and I knew I was in trouble," he said.
Carbery said he doesn't want the gruesome details of his story to deter anyone from exploring the backcountry, however.
"The message is that we need to be careful in bear country for sure," he said, adding that nature has a quick way of teaching a harsh lesson even to those with decades of experience in the bush.
"She got me good. She taught me my lesson, so I appreciate that," Carbery said. "I feel like the most fortunate man on earth because not everybody gets to mess with a grizzly bear and come out of it."
With files from CTV Vancouver's David Molko