Man attacked by bear, tapes wounds, drives to hospital

Rifle fell apart as man tried to shoot sow

Posted: Friday, September 26, 2003

WASILLA - A hunter bitten by a grizzly bear bound some of his wounds with duct tape, then rode his all-terrain vehicle to his pickup truck and drove himself to the hospital.

Bill Murphy, 54, was bitten on his shoulder, thigh and buttock in the attack Sept. 17. He had surprised a grizzly cub and its mother on the Permanente trail north of Sutton, which is about 50 miles northeast of Anchorage.

In an instant, the sow was charging.

"I didn't even have time to jump," Murphy told the Anchorage Daily News in a story published Thursday.

He grabbed his rifle from the side of his backpack but couldn't raise it before the sow slammed into him, pinning him on his stomach to the ground. She clamped her jaws around his right shoulder and started shaking him like a rag.

He felt teeth pressing against his skin, then a pop as they sliced through.

"I just lay perfectly still and said, 'God, don't bite my head,' " he said.

Murphy had taken the trail off the Glenn Highway to hunt for moose and sheep. He rode in about 15 miles on a four-wheeler before putting on a backpack and setting out on foot.

He saw the bears in a clearing as he walked through a stand of willows. They were about 40 feet away. The sow was facing away from him. But when her cub stood up, she turned her head and immediately bolted for him.

"She made no noise," Murphy said. "She was on her feet and coming before I could blink an eye." Murphy said.

At first, he didn't know what to do, he said, but as the sow bit him, he got mad.

"I said, 'Oh, screw this. I can't just lay here and take this.' "

He slid his rifle free and jabbed the barrel at the bear. He doesn't know where he hit the animal, but the sow grabbed the rifle and started shaking it.

"It felt like you had a dog and were fighting with a broomstick handle," he said. "I just held onto it as hard as I could."

At some point, the bear let go, but then stood over Murphy, panting and drooling onto his head. All he could think about was a bear attack over the summer near the Russian River where a man bitten on the face was blinded.

"I just tried to keep my face down. I laid as flat as I could," he said.

Finally, the bear started to move away.

Murphy said he got up, planning to shoot the sow, but then realized his rifle had fallen apart. The stock was broken off.

He said he has no idea how long the attack lasted, but it felt like "two lifetimes."

He was bleeding and needed help. He wrapped duct tape around his shoulder and cut up a cloth bag to wrap around his thigh. He put on his backpack and hiked out to his four-wheeler. As he rode out, Murphy met some other hunters who helped dress his wounds.

They offered to help him get back to his truck, but Murphy told them he could make it on his own. He got back to his Ford pickup and drove about a half hour to Valley Hospital in Palmer, sitting on his jacket to keep from getting blood on his truck seat.

He reached the hospital parking lot just as shock started to set in.

"I opened my door and looked down and said, 'Whoa, I don't know if I can make it.' "

Murphy walked up to the counter and said, "I need some help, I've been bitten by a bear."

Murphy said doctors told him it will be about two weeks before his wounds heal. They didn't stitch up the bites because of the possibility of infection. Instead, he has to clean them with antibiotic-treated gauze.

He also has to be careful how he moves. For now, he has to sleep on his stomach and can't sit down. He said he doesn't plan to give up hunting, but hopes not to run into any other bears.

"I can laugh about it now, but I wasn't laughing then," he said.

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