Steamboat man reflects on grizzly attack
July 27, 2011
Steamboat Springs — 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