Steamboat resident Denton Turner talks about how he survived a grizzly attack in Yellowstone in 2004. He survived by curling up in the fetal position and staying perfectly still until the grizzly  left him for dead.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat resident Denton Turner talks about how he survived a grizzly attack in Yellowstone in 2004. He survived by curling up in the fetal position and staying perfectly still until the grizzly left him for dead.

Steamboat man reflects on grizzly attack

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Steamboat man recalls grizzly bear attack

Denton Turner was in Yellowstone National Park when he was attacked by a grizzly several years ago. His memories of the encounter remain fresh.

Denton Turner was in Yellowstone National Park when he was attacked by a grizzly several years ago. His memories of the encounter remain fresh.

— When Libba Turner heard that a group of teenagers, including a boy from Denver, was attacked by a grizzly bear in the Alaskan wilderness Saturday, she thought about her 26-year-old son living in Steamboat Springs and how lucky he was to survive a bear attack seven years ago.

“Every time I read about a bear attack, it brings the memory of his encounter back to me, and I get goose bumps,” she said. “It amazes me that he survived. People hardly do that.”

Denton Turner, who works in the Honey Stinger and Big Agnes warehouse, was attacked by a mother grizzly bear while hiking in Yellowstone National Park in 2004 and was able to walk away after the bear stopped her assault. He said it has taken years for him to be able to hike, bike and fly-fish in the wilderness with the level of confidence he had prior to the attack.

“It changed my life. Every day I think about it, especially here” in Steamboat, Turner said. “I would say my respect and my awareness of the outdoors is 100 times what it was before that day.”

Turner was hiking alone at dusk when he encountered a grizzly bear and her two cubs in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley. Before the encounter, he had pulled out his binoculars to try to identify an elusive bird.

“Then I heard a snap of a twig behind me in the sagebrush, and I turned around, and a big, huge mamma grizzly bear was staring at me,” he said. “I froze up.”

After the bear charged him, he played dead as she clawed at him and bit him near his armpit. In the fetal position, he said he thought he was going to die.

“I never felt pain at all during the whole encounter,” he said. “I just laid there as long as possible.”

The grizzly stopped her attack, and Turner was able to walk back to his car. He said he didn’t realize the extent of his injuries until he saw his reflection in a window.

“I don’t think I panicked until blood started appearing in my shirt,” he said.

He then waved down a motorist who took him to a hospital.

Turner said recent stories about bear attacks, including a hiker killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone earlier this month, and other encounters with wildlife remind him how lucky he was to walk away.

“I really think I’m the best case that I’ve read about,” he said. “I definitely feel lucky. Nobody I’ve read about has come out as clean as me. They were either seriously injured by the grizzly or they were killed.”

Turner shared his story with students at Steamboat Springs Middle School in May, and he hopes to continue to use his encounter with the grizzly as an educational tool.

“I talked to them about hanging your food up and not cooking food inside their tents,” he said. “I hope my story can help people be more aware and be more safe.”

He also said that he feels safe hiking with larger groups of people, and tries to make more noise while hiking alone on trails to avoid surprising animals.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

JustSomeJoe 3 years, 4 months ago

Isn't this the guy that performed CPR on the toddler that got pulled out of Butcherknife Creek a couple months ago? A righteous man!

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Jeff_Kibler 3 years, 4 months ago

Joe, you reminded me that I need to update my CPR training. Isn't it only chest-compression these days?

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Kerrie Cooper 3 years, 4 months ago

Denton, It's way cool that you can say you were attacked by a grizzly and survived. Powerful totem to be sure! I, too had a very close encounter of the grizzly kind in 1984, while working for Grand Teton Lodge Co. Years prior to this though, I was chased into the reservation office in Curry Village (in Yosemite National Park) by a big black bear , and the office manager yelled at me for running from him. I was not happy about his advice at the time, but it actually saved my life a few years later when in 1984, a grizzly came out of the woods approx. 80 ft away with absolutely no where to hide for cover high in the canyons. I remembered that guys advice years prior and refused to feel fear (knowing the grizzly could smell it) and began screaming with my outstretched arms at the grizzly. The grizzly then stood up on his hind legs with this comical look on his face, with me thinking "man is nothing compared to that animal. He is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen." The bear got back down and slowly walked away down the trail, THEN I began to shake, only to run into it again. This time we made a wide diversion and slowly hiked back down the mountain, pretty much scared to death, but alive and untouched. There's nothing like a grizzly encounter of the close kind. Very humbling at every level.

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JJ Southard 3 years, 3 months ago

JustSomeJoe....Indeed he IS... Righteous man Indeed... He himself admits his precious life may have been spared for many reasons besides now being a bonafide hero regarding Edwin.

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MrTaiChi 3 years, 3 months ago

An acquaintance of mine, Jeff Brown, who was or is a big shot with the Appalachian Mountain Club was hiking with a friend in Glacier National Park in the 1980s as I recall, and was about a quarter to half mile from a campsite, and I believe, Ranger station. A Grizzly attacked them and the woman tried to climb a tree to get away but before she got up very far, the Griz filleted her calf and pulled her down and bit her on the head opening a flap of scalp. Jeff ran over and punched the bear in the side of the head which did succeed in diverting its attention to him. He got in the survival position covering the back of his neck with his hands and played dead. The bear proceeded to maul him a bit as he heard the bear's canines scraping the long bone in the upper arm, but felt no pain. The bear bit him many times and ultimately latched on to his buttocks and picked him up and carried him several yards. Jeff, at the time was about 6'5" and about 230+/-. The bear tore out a chunk of his buttocks, and Jeff resumed the survival position, thinking that he should avoid eye contact, but dared to steal a glance over at the direction of the panting bear. She was sitting and licking blood off her paws. He decided that she would kill him if he just stayed there and rose and walked walk away back toward the campground where his friend had limped off for help. He didn’t make it all the way before a rescue party rushed up. He was air lifted with his friend to a medical center in Montana where he took 700 stitches. For about two years thereafter he spiked fevers from time to time as pockets of infection in the tooth puncture wounds flared up. He was bitter that there were no warning signs of an aggressive bear and that Park Service rules at the time prohibited carrying a firearm to defend himself. As far as he was aware, there was no provocation. Maybe the friend was menstuating, who knows. There were no facts associated with the attack that would explain it other than as a case of predation.

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Kerrie Cooper 3 years, 3 months ago

Mr. TaiChi - That is an intense story about your friend, but he needs to have perspective on his being attacked without provocation. If a bear will take down deer, elk, moose, other bears, etc to eat, or just kill, why wouldn't a bear want to eat a human or kill a human if even just in a bad mood? Just because man has lost its mental connection to the food chain, doesn't mean a bear or any other predator has.......And truthfully, I will never hike in grizzly country again without a sidearm to even up the odds a bit despite what anybody says. I, too was naive when I was told by a ranger there were no grizzlies in the area, never questioning why that would be the case. Being in nature, means thinking like the creatures in nature to survive - end of story.

btw: at that moment of my encounter, I had never felt so alive in my life or rather grateful to be when we made it back down in one piece.

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MrTaiChi 3 years, 3 months ago

@ loves...

I don't think Jeff would have disagreed with anything you wrote, and probably would have faulted me for allowing the perception that he was some sort of pilgrim in a wilderness area for the first time. In telling the tale, as I overheard it in a car with other passengers, he didn't express any hatred of the animal or its kind. If I were to guess, I'd guess that he now would just shrug and concede grizzly habitat to the grizzlies and not go there rather than pack something like Dirty Harry would carry to slow one down.

Your footnote made me remember my reaction to making love to a woman for the first time.

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MrTaiChi 3 years, 3 months ago

I had another hiking acquaintance, Kerry Wroebel, who was young, thin and fast on the trail. After he consumed the major trail accomplishments available in the Northeast, he set out on the AT. When he got to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the shelters had hurricane fencing curtains across the front with signs that they should be closed and fastened because of black bears. He thought he was experienced with the generally timid black bears of the Notheast, hung his food and cooking clothes a couple of hundred feet away, but decided to honor the local customs. In the middle of the night he was awakened by a bear trying to dig under the hurricane curtain, so he spent the next hour or so trying to fill the bear's excavation with dirt from the apron of the leanto while the bear dug it out. After a while the bear got bored and ambled off. The next day he did a thirty mile day to get out of the Blue Ridge. (might have been the Great Smokies)

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Kerrie Cooper 3 years, 3 months ago

I love the wilderness stories....so exciting, so different each time. In all honesty, I am in the quandary of hiking in grizz country again because I, too love and cherish every animal out there and would hate to think I had to kill one, but then again being in the wilderness makes me feel alive and at home and the grizzlies remind me of my place on the planet causing me to yearn to go back to grizzly country. I guess I'll just stick with the black bears and mountain lions for now and love the grizzlies from a distance. Thanks for sharing MrTaiChi.

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