Not sure there is an animal on earth more terrifying than a grizzly bear. Being attacked by a grizzly is one of the most traumatic and painful encounters a person can have with an animal. A lot of people who get attacked never live to tell the story. This Alaskan man survived an absolutely brutal mauling though. He nearly lost his life as essentially half of his face was ripped off by a big brown bear. 65-year-old Wes Perkins recently shared his story with Newsweek.
The former fire chief was exploring the Alaskan wilderness when the attack happened in 2011. It’s been described as one of the most horrific grizzly bear attacks in recorded history. It happened not far from Perkins’ home in Nome, Alaska. He was on a hunting trip with friends and family when it happened. They had seen the grizzly at a distance and began tracking it. The bear then seemingly appeared out of nowhere and within close proximity.
“I turned and saw the bear, full charge,” Perkins said a year after the attack. “I only had time to say, ‘Oh sh*t!’ But I got my gun halfway off my back… When I turned around, the bear was that close. I had no time to do anything.”
Grizzly Bear Attack Victim Sharing His Story For A Documentary
As soon as the bear mauled onto Perkins, his hunting buddy Dan Stang grabbed a gun and started shooting the bear. The bear then left Perkins and began to charge Stand. At this point, Dan Stang’s son starteed shooting at the grizzly bear, eventually killing it.
“I probably saved Wes’s life and my son saved my life in the same ordeal,” Dan Stang said. Despite being excruciatingly disfigured, Perkins never lost contiousness. Perkins rolled him forward and buried his face in the snow to help numb it while they immediately radioed for emergency aid.
“I basically kept my airway open and had to dig the debris out of my airway, when I lost my tongue, jaw and all but a few teeth,” Perkins said. “So telling myself to function and never close my eyes or go unconscious was the main concentration.”
A rescue helicopter was dispatched immediately thanks to help from Perkins brother who knew a pilot. He rushed to the hospital in Nome, stabilized, and then transffered to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
“I was lucky enough that I was able to get up, with their help, and walk into the helicopter. There was no airway unless I kept my head tilted to the side just right,” Perkins said. “I have helped others my whole life, and never imagined that I would be on the receiving end of things, but the brotherhood of Nome, my brothers in the fire service, from Seattle, Anchorage, Nome, came out to support and fundraise for me and helped me through this recovery.
His Survival Required Extensive Surgeries
Perkins would spend four months in the hospital and underwent numerous operations. His facial reconstruction required titantium plates in both cheeks and a titanium jawbone. “I have a few issues sometimes with talking, as most of my damage was facial, lower jaw, but most understand me if I slow down and do not get excited,” Perkins said. “I used to talk a lot, and when they told me I would never talk or eat by mouth again, I really had to beat those odds as I could not imagine my active life without being able to do .”
To further complicate matters, his nervous system got addicted to painkillers during the recovery process after the grizzly bear attack. Wes Perkins said “I was on morphine, and opiates and methadone in my recovery. The day I left the hospital they told me I was addicted or dependent on opiates. So I spent a couple of months at home that fall putting myself through the ‘Wes Perkins Opiate Withdrawal Clinic.”
Other than that, his recovery is going well, all things considered. “I do most everything I used to do but since I cannot close my mouth, I cannot swim and it’s hard to run or jog, as my jaw bounces because I lost so much muscle in my jaw… but hell, those are small things in life. I do everything else,” he said.