For Todd Orr, a Montana native, Saturday morning was no stroll in the park. The former trails engineer was mauled not once, but twice by a bear in the Madison Valley. Despite using bear spray from a short distance, Orr was ferociously attacked and found himself questioning whether he would survive the incidents.
“Life sucks in bear country,” said Orr in a video posted Sunday, which at the time of writing has reached nearly 20 million views.
Walking through the valley, Orr regularly yelled to avoid startling any bears with his presence. Coming across a sow and her cubs about 80 yards away, Orr shouted to alert the bear that he was human, but the bear charged at him. He used the spray from 25 feet away to no avail.
“I went to my face in the dirt and wrapped my arms around the back of my neck for protection,” Orr wrote in a Facebook post. “She was on top of me biting my arms, shoulders and backpack. The force of each bite was like a sledge hammer with teeth. She would stop for a few seconds and then bite again. Over and over. After a couple minutes, but what seemed an eternity, she disappeared.” Here’s a video Orr recorded right after the attack — fair warning, it’s pretty bloody.
What is in Bear Spray?
Bear spray is a useful deterrent, but Orr is proof that it is not a foolproof solution. The Center for Wildlife Information explains that, although similar to pepper spray in chemical composition, bear spray differs from other solution in a few crucial ways. Both are made from an oleoresin capsicum oil, but bear spray has the capsaicin as an active ingredient in this oil, with a concentration range of between one and two percent as per EPA regulations.
The spray is designed to irritate the bear’s nose, eyes and throat, but it is not intended as a catch-all solution. The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ Bear Spray literature notes that it is designed to do a few things, namely: “reduce human injuries caused by bears.”
Most guides state that the spray will differ depending on weather conditions and the aggressiveness of the bear. Orr was lucky, and is on the mend after a visit to the hospital, but his escape is a stark reminder that even well-equipped hikers cannot depend on spray to get them out of a tough spot.
Orr, 50, is the founder of Skyblade Knives, a store that sells custom knives inspired by his love of the wilderness and hunting. Growing up near Ennis, Orr claims on his company bio that he was as good with a BB gun as his dad by age six, and he’s always been an avid outdoorsman. In a split second, Orr had to draw on these decades of training and preparation to fight for his very survival.