Death & Survival in Glacier National Park
True Tales of Tragedy, Courage, and Misadventure
by C. W. Guthrie
and Ann & Dan Fagre
published by Farcountry Press
Includes maps, charts & graphs.
Smitty later wrote, "My parents had drummed into my head never to run from a grizzly. So there I stood as my four companions ran for the trees. I quickly glanced down the trail at the gigantic grizzly bear churning straight toward me. The sound of the rasping, deep, guttural grunt that accompanied each stride sent waves of panic through my body. Then, when perhaps half the original distance was consumed, I, too fled. I ran like the wind, dodging bushes and leaping over downed trees."
Alan Nelson had not yet made it up a tree, and he and Smitty headed for a grove of evergreens on the far side of the trail. As they neared the trees, the grizzly pounced on Smitty, knocking him to the ground. Then the bear picked up the boy, tossed him about, chewed and clawed flesh from the back of his head, and raked his face with her massive claws.
Nelson, now standing behind a tree, shouted at the bear to distract her. The furious bear spun around and charged him. As Nelson struggled to climb the tree, dead branches broke off in his hands, dropping him down toward the bear. The enraged bear reared up, grabbed Nelson by his buttocks, and pulled him down. He screamed as he slammed into the forest floor, face first. The bear hovered over him, using her claws and snout trying to turn him over. Nelson knew his best chance to survive was to remain face down and play dead. He spread his arms and legs to gain leverage and grasped vegetation. The bear bit the back of his thighs again and again. Then suddenly she stopped biting him and turned toward sounds coming from the opposite side of the trail. Brita Noring stood at the base of the pine tree that Gote Nyhlen had climbed for refuge. The bear charged in Noring's direction, reared up on its hind legs, and stood face-to-face with her. Noring froze and wisely remained motionless for a long while. Finally, the bear dropped to all fours and started to move away.
Nyhlen, still clinging to a branch in the pine, reached down to Brita. She grasped his hand and struggled up the tree. Seconds before she could reach a safe distance, the bear lunged toward her, crushed her ankle in its mouth, and dragged her from the tree. The bear tore at her side again and again, laying her flesh bare, then she grabbed Brita's leg and dragged her into the underbrush....
-from Chapter Thirteen: Lions and Wolves and Bears, Oh My