Backpacker Narrowly Survives Grizzly Bear Attack by Playing Dead

by Amy Myers

A backpacker from Buffalo, New York says he’s “luckier than hell” to be alive after running into a grizzly bear during his travels through Wyoming.

Barry Olsen was descending the Francs Peak west of Meeteetse when he accidentally surprised the giant beast that stood merely 15 yards away. At the time, the 68-year-old backpacker was on an annual quest to summit each of Wyoming’s 13,000-foot peaks while also planning to visit his mother who lives in the state.

Olsen’s multi-day backpacking trip came to a screeching halt, though, when he encountered one of the mountain’s wild residents.

“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.”

It would take only a few lumbering gaits for the grizzly bear to reach the backpacker, which wasn’t nearly enough time to effectively deploy his bear spray.

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

‘I Just Played Dead’ Said Backpacker and Grizzly Bear Attack Victim

That’s when things turned violent. According to responding personnel, the grizzly bear attacked Olsen five consecutive times. Still set on using his bear spray, the backpacker tried in vain to deploy it.

“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,” Olsen explained.

The 68-year-old came to the terrifying realization that his safety device wouldn’t help him in this situation. Out of other ideas, Olsen decided to try a very different technique.

“I just played dead,” he said.

Thankfully, this seemed to finally work.

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

Backpacker Manages to Activate Personal GPS to Signal for Help

Bleeding and badly hurt, Olsen was in no condition to carry himself out of the field. Luckily, he had his Personal Locator Beacon that would send a distress signal to local emergency personnel.

Sure enough, the Park County Sheriff’s Office Communications Division received the ping and promptly sent our aircrews to Olsen’s location. However, because of the remote nature of Olsen’s spot, it took crews several hours before they could finally land.

“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.”

Once at a local hospital, Olsen received treatment for significant muscular wounds to both thighs and the triceps of his left arm. He’ll likely need a skin graft for one of his legs in the future, but for now, he’s able to rest comfortably at home.

As for future trips to Wyoming’s mountains, the backpacker said, “This may be it for me.”