Alaska Man Fights Off Brown Bear That Charged At His Family While They Were Birdwatching

protective looking mother brown ...
protective looking mother brown ...

A 48-year-old Alaska man says he successfully fought off an aggressive brown bear using only his bare hands and a single piece of birdwatching equipment, according to multiple reports.

Biologist Toby Burke was walking on the Kenai peninsula in southern Alaska with his wife and three children when his 11-year-old daughter noticed a bear approaching them from behind, according to a local report in the Peninsula Clarion newspaper. When the bear broke into a run at the family, Burke's wife and kids got behind him.

Burke lodged his birdwatching telescope in the bear's mouth, but the bear snapped it in two, so Burke used the sharp end to stab the bear in the face, he told the Clarion. When the bear knocked the broken scope from his hands, Burke held up his arm in defense, the paper notes.

When the bear clamped its jaws on Burke's left arm, he punched it in the face with his other hand. The bear retaliated by hitting Burke in the ribcage before giving up and walking away, the Clarion wrote.

“I definitely felt a crushing sensation when it clamped down on my arm,” Burke told ABC about the fight with the bear. “Fortunately, because I had heavy layers of clothing on, I’m basically just really bruised up.”

Although the brown bear is believed to have attacked a car and a telephone pole that same day, wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger told The Anchorage Daily News there's no clear reason for the animal's belligerent behavior.

In the rare instance a brown bear attacks a human, it usually does so because it feels threatened. Bear attacks in general are much more rare than many people think: As the Alaska Department of Fish and Game notes, a study found that 20 people died from bear attacks in Alaska during the first 85 years of last century. By comparison, in 10 years (1975-1985), 19 people were killed by dogs in Alaska.