In June 2013, Nic Patrick toted an irrigation shovel on an early-morning ramble with his dog to water the meadows on his Wyoming ranch. With little warning, he found himself in a situation that is the stuff of nightmares.
Hearing barking, Patrick moved forward to stop what he thought was one of his dog’s “epic fights” with a raccoon. As he rounded a hill, yelling at the dog to stop, he came face to face with a female grizzly bear and her two cubs.
In a matter of two or three seconds, the bear was on Patrick. He swung the shovel and smacked her in the face without much effect. His face was exposed, and the bear bit off a large portion of the right side, ravaging the area between his eye and mouth and taking off his entire nose. She then dragged him by his left knee about 20 feet. Patrick turned onto his stomach, hoping that he could outlast her protective fury. The bear finally left.
His upper lip dangling, Patrick pulled out his cell phone to call for help, but discovered he was in a pocket without service. In a matter of moments, he had bigger problems. He heard the bear running back toward him.
“She tied into me again,” he recalled, biting the back of his head and tearing through his vest before she gathered the cubs and lumbered off.
Patrick walked back to his home near Cody – about a quarter mile – to begin a remarkable story of recovery from the horrific injury. When he recounted the incident in a phone interview late last month, he expressed his gratitude to Frederic Deleyiannis, MD, the University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado surgeon who performed a series of complex facial reconstructive surgeries that successfully concluded in February.
No blame for bear
Completely absent from Patrick is any rancor toward the bear, who he believes continues to roam the area where she attacked him.
In the instant that he surprised the sow, he remembers feeling “disappointment that I had blundered into this situation and set myself up – and that it would reflect poorly on bears.”
However understandable her motherly response, she wreaked tremendous damage on Patrick, whose face looked like it had received a shotgun blast. When he got home, he threw a rag over his face to conceal the wound from his granddaughter. Wife Joyce coordinated with their daughter to get Patrick to the hospital in Cody.