Backpacker plays dead to halt grizzly bear attack

The backpacker in Wyoming who surprised a grizzly bear while descending Francs Peak west of Meeteetse at the end of last month said he was “luckier than hell, to be honest.”

Barry Olson of Buffalo, N.Y., has been returning to Wyoming every summer in his quest to reach the summit of every 13,000-foot peak in the state, where his mother still lives, as reported by the Cody Enterprise.

The 68-year-old was on a multi-day backpacking trip when he encountered the grizzly, had no time to deploy bear spray and was severely mauled, according to the Park County Sheriff’s Office.

“I was going down, over the ridge, and couldn’t see that far ahead,” Olson told the Cody Enterprise. “We just happened to cross paths. I was going down, he was coming up.”

They were 15 yards apart when their paths crossed. Olson took one small step away from the bear, but it started toward him.

“I tried to get to my bear spray—it had been clipped on my shoulder—but they move so damn fast,” he told the Cody Enterprise. “He was on me before I could even get to it…

“They say the bear attacked me five times, but I’d almost call it like one attack. After it got me the first time, bit me and shook me around, I tried to go for my bear spray again because he paused. But it was only a pause of a couple seconds. Then it was on top of me again. After that, I just played dead.”

Also on FTW Outdoors: Grizzly bear attacks hiker in surprise encounter; no time to react

The fifth and last time, “the bear had me 3 or 4 feet off the ground, flipped me over and dumped me on the ground. Then…he just left.”

Badly injured and alone but conscious, Olson activated his Personal Locator Beacon.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office Communications Division received a report of a possible downed aircraft, but it eventually was determined to be a PLB at a high altitude.

“Due to the location of the signal, PSAR Air – 1 and a Guardian Medical helicopter were launched,” the Park County Sheriff’s Office reported on Facebook. “A UH-1H Huey from Sublette County SAR was also summoned to assist in transporting a PCSAR ground team to the remote location.”

A few hours later, help finally arrived for Olson.

“The patient was quickly loaded in the Huey and flown to a landing zone in the Wood River area, where he was transferred to the Guardian Medical Helicopter and transported to Billings for treatment,” the Park County Sheriff’s Office stated.

Olson suffered significant muscular wounds to both thighs and the triceps of his left arm. He has since been released, but he expects to undergo a skin graft on one of his legs soon.

Olson told the Cody Enterprise that he promised his daughter he wouldn’t climb a mountain for at least a year, “but…this may be it for me.”

Generic photos of grizzly bears courtesy of the National Park Service; photos of the rescue helicopter and the grizzly paw print in the snow courtesy of Park County Sheriff’s Office.

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