Editor’s note: This story contains a photo some readers may find graphic.
HENRYS LAKE — Gregory “Thor” Godar thought he was going to die.
As the 500-pound bear slashed his back, swung him to the ground and bit his stomach, he looked into its eyes and was sure this was the end.
“I said to myself, ‘Well, at least I’m getting killed by a pretty bear.’ She was very beautiful,” Godar says.
How the attack happened
Godar and his wife, Sherry Groves, had been hiking on the Aspen Trail at Henrys Lake State Park on Friday afternoon. The West Yellowstone, Montana, couple had hiked in this area of the park before but never seen any bears. They were carrying bear spray and bells.
“I hear ruffling in the brush and the aspen trees. I look over and see brown and assume it’s an elk but out of the trees run two big fat cubs – large grizzly yearlings,” Godar tells EastIdahoNews.com. “Then I look, and there’s mama bear staring at me from 20 feet away. I go, ‘Oh s***!’ and yell to warn Sherry.”
In an “unbelievably quick” second, the bear charged at Godar. He reached for bear spray he carried at his chest but couldn’t get it in time. What happened next in something Godar says he’ll never forget.
“She paused for a split second 5 feet away from me and looked me straight in the eye,” Godar recalls. “I think she was trying to figure out the best way to attack.”
Before he knew it, Godar was on the ground, and the bear was swatting and biting. Groves turned around and saw the grizzly lying on her husband.
“I was convinced I was dead. After she chewed on my belly, I thought she was going to crush my neck and kill me,” Godar says.
He grabbed his throat, thinking that’s where the bear would bite next, but instead, she paused, got up and ran away.
After the attack
Groves released bear spray in the direction of the animals, but they stayed put. Now the couple had to get out of harm’s way.
“We pretty much assumed she would attack again, and we had to walk a mile and a half back to the park entrance station expecting she’d charge at us,” Godar says. “On the way down, we warned a lady walking her dog that there was a grizzly up there, and she didn’t believe us but then turned around and left.”
Despite the attack, Godar says he was never in extreme pain – “it was a 2-to-3 on a scale of 1 to 10” – but the tooth marks in his stomach stung, and there was a lot of blood. Finally, the couple arrived at their car and drove to the park entrance.
“I thought I was going to throw a little water on it, get dirt out of the wound and drive home to West Yellowstone,” Godar says. “I was descended upon by dozens of people asking questions – ambulance people, park rangers, the bear specialist, Fish and Game – they all had to ask the same questions over and over again.”
Godar was loaded into an ambulance and then transferred to a helicopter so he could be flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. He was conscious the entire time and remained in good spirits.
“Once the bear got off of me, and I could see I might have a shot at getting out of there, I was very happy because I thought I wasn’t going to die. I was pretty cheerful through most of it,” he says. “But my heroic wife, who helped me hustle of there, she was hyperventilating and felt like throwing up. We were both scared the bears were coming back.”
Godar was released from EIRMC late Friday night and will see a wound specialist in Bozeman, Montana, a few times a week for the next month. Big bruises are all over his body, and he puts ointment and gauze over the tooth marks on his stomach.
The couple says this won’t stop them from hiking, but they will now carry large cowbells on their backs and bear spray in their hands.
“I would advise anyone in significant bear country to not depend on having your bear spray on your hip or in your backpack. Mine was on my front, and you’d think I’d have time to get it out. I didn’t. Most of the attacks are from very short range,” Godar says. “I don’t think I will ever put it in a holster again. I’m going to hold it in my hand.”