Bear attack survivor shares tips for recreating in grizzly country
Hudson in front of a picture display board that shows photos of some of the bites from his mauling by a large brown bear. He is pointing to the picture of a friend who was later killed by a bear in Alaska. (Chuck Bandel/VP-MI)
Bear expert Brent Hudson with a can of bear spray with CFC, the most effective kind of bear spray. (Chuck Bandel/VP-MI)
Valley Press | August 2, 2023 12:00 AM
As he was dangling from the mouth of a record-size brown bear in Alaska, several thoughts surged through Brent Hudson’s badly bleeding head.
The now 76-year-old Hudson was at the mercy of the 9-foot bear, who picked him up by the neck, took a few steps and dropped him. Playing dead was what came to mind as a survival technique, even though it was not at the top of his list.
Hudson had already suffered several bites from the snarling beast.
He had gone to the wooded area near a federal cleanup site in Kodiak, Alaska, part of his job as an engineer, without his standard large caliber handgun and large-size can of bear spray.
On this day, when he was temporarily armed with only a two-way radio, the surprise attack would be devastating.
“Strangely enough, I had just finished some bear safety talks to the workers at the site,” said Hudson, a mountain of a man who stands 6-4 and weighs well over 250 pounds. “I was coming out of the brush and heard the bear I already knew was in the immediate vicinity and looking for me.
“I could hear him huffing and before I could react he was on me and pile-drove me into the ground, breaking several of my ribs. He took a bite out of my hand, but it was the first bite in my butt that was the worst pain I had ever felt in my life.”
The former Marine who served in Vietnam and survived the Tet Offensive of 1968 when communist forces staged sweeping, coordinated attacks throughout the war-torn country, was in the fight of his life in Kodiak.
“I know that one bite to the head by a bear that size and you are dead,” Hudson recalled in a soft tone that echoed thoughts of a man who had been in a battle. “The bear bit me in the shoulder, carried me a short distance and dropped me on the ground. He then went for the kill, biting me in the neck. I heard a cracking sound and all I could do was play dead. He rolled me back and forth and I kept as still as I could. Next thing I heard was branches breaking, indicating he had broken off the attack thinking I was dead.”
The bear, Hudson said, was running away, leaving him broken and “squirting blood” from several bite wounds.
Later, after radioing co-workers who found him and got him on a helicopter heading for a hospital in Kodiak, Hudson said doctors told him if the bite to the neck had been a fraction of an inch toward his head, he would have been dead.
Pausing from the story and recollecting his thoughts, Hudson told the crowd at White Pine Grange near Trout Creek that he was saved by divine intervention.
“There is no doubt in my mind, God directed [the path of] that bite," he said, head partially bowed. “I give glory to God that I survived.”
HAVING BEEN a bear hunting guide and worked as a bear “guard” protecting Alaska outback workers from the state’s large population of brown, black and grizzly bears for 37 years, Hudson has morphed into an author on the subject and conducts seminars in bear behavior and how to stay safe in their neck of the woods.
Hudson told the full-house in the grange that bear populations are rebounding in many areas and when coupled with ever encroaching human habitation expansion, the danger is not going away any time soon.
“I’m a creationist, not an evolutionist,” he said. “Bears don’t evolve, they adapt to their situation”.
Hudson discussed bear numbers, how to ward off a bear attack, what to do when in bear country and several other topics on staying safe in bear habitat.
He also discussed bear qualities that make them top level predators.
“Bears have the best noses in the business,” he said. “The bear that attacked me I’m sure smelled me from a mile away. Bears are omnivorous, they will eat anything. They also have a huge brain cavity and can think and reason.”
Bears also display certain behaviors that can signify the likelihood of an attack.
“If a bear is standing, looking around, I feel I’m good to go and should do just that, get out of the area,” Hudson said. “If they are crouched down, something is up.”
Hudson went over several methods of defending against an attacking bear, beginning with carrying a large caliber handgun and bear spray in a large can.
“If you are going to defend against a charging bear, your plan should be to kill the bear if you can. Shoot several times and practice using the firearm before going into bear areas.”
He also advised making lots of noise as you journey along wooded trails, telling the crowd that in most circumstances if the bears hear you coming they will get out of the way. Other means to prevent bear attacks include storing food away from campsites when possible, and investing in portable electric fences to help keep the bears at bay.
“I can’t say enough good about electric fences,” he said. “They make portable electric fences for campers”.
If a bear is near and threatening, he said, make yourself look “as big and threatening as you can”.
And he said, keep your eyes on the bear and make sure you know where they are.
“Bears are like dogs, they have facial expressions that are clues to their intentions. You can tell if a dog is about to bite by the look on their face. Bears are similar in that regard.”
Hudson said those who are in most danger of bear attacks include hunters [they don’t make a lot of noise because they are trying to sneak up on game], Forest Service workers, berry pickers, and campers and hikers.
A new book authored by Hudson, “Stalking Giants” is expected to be released shortly and is recommended reading for all who enter bear environs.
“One more thing everyone should know,” Hudson concluded. “It is hard to describe the power of that animal. Their muscle structure is amazing. You watch a bear accelerate in a run and it’s like they have after-burners.”