Alaska Man Fights Off Bear, Saves Family

May 1, 2013 Updated: May 1, 2013

A bear attacked a family who were watching birds over the weekend in Alaska’s southwestern Kenai Peninsula, but the father was able to fend off the animal.

Toby Burke, a wildlife biologist for Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, was watching birds with his wife and three children along the Kasilof River Beach when they spotted a bear.

He said the family attempted to avoid the animal and a short while later, it approached the family.

“The bear is coming, it’s coming towards us!” 11-year-old Grace Burke told her father, reported ABC News.

“We were raising our arms and made loud noises,” Laura Burke said. “That’s supposed to scare the bear away. Instead of running away, it came right towards us.”

Toby Burke then told his wife and children got behind him as the bear came up to him.

He grabbed a scope that was attached to his tripod and attempted to hit the bear but it caught the scope in its mouth. The bear swatted at the scope and broke it, leaving a sharp piece. Burke then used the sharp end to hit the bear in the face, scaring it off.

“It was just me between my family and the bear,” he told the broadcaster. “At that point, I made physical contact. All I could do was put my left arm up. Then its mouth clamped down on my forearm. So I remember hitting it in the face with my right arm.”

He added: “I definitely felt a crushing sensation when it clamped down on my arm. Fortunately, because I had heavy layers of clothing on, I’m basically just really bruised up.”

Burke described the animal as a “deranged” adult sow brown bear, according to the Homer Tribune.

“After it was all done, my overwhelming sentiment that I was left with was, I just felt grateful. It could have ended so many different ways and, really, no one was hurt. It never laid a paw on any of my family and I didn’t get torn up, so I just felt really grateful,” he told the paper.

Alaska State Troopers tracked the bear down before shooting and killing it.

Burke said the bear appeared to be hungry and would not respond when he tried to scare it away.

“People talk about playing dead, but this was not the proverbial play-dead situation,” Burke told the Tribune. “This was one of those half-starved bears that was really erratic. It wasn’t a bear that had been surprised and just wanted to get out of the area. This was a bear that decided to come after us. The only alternative I had was to try to fend it off.”