Hunters rescued from grizzly attack thank search team

By Chad Klassen
February 25, 2016 - 5:35pm Updated: February 29, 2016 - 7:10pm

KAMLOOPS — Two hunters say they're lucky to be alive after a near-death encounter with a grizzly bear in northern B.C. last September.

Robbie Austin and Chris Eyre are still marvelling at the fact they're here today, surviving the attack near Fort Nelson nearly six months ago. 

It left the two with both physical and emotional scars.

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"The scar [on my neck], part of it is from surgery, but there's a hooked shape in the scar and that's from the bear's tooth, where it hit my corotid artery," says Austin. "It caused a blood clot to go up into my brain and give me a stroke."

While hunting near the Besa River up north, Eyre had just killed his first sheep, but on their way back to the vehicle with the kill, they startled a mother grizzly with her two cubs.

"She was very close, I only had a few seconds, and she grabbed me and attacked me," says Eyre. 

With the sow towing over top him, Eyre was in the fight of his life. 

"It was terrifying, I really thought my days were over on the Earth. Seeing her above me, and her power."

At that point, out of desperation, Austin pulled out his gun trying to save his friend. 

"So I'm trying to get my gun out of my backpack and I finally get my gun out and ready to shoot at her," says Austin. "But then I was worried I was going to shoot Chris, so I screamed at her real aggressively, and she turned around and looked at me and just charged as soon as she saw me. Then she charged and I shot and missed, and as she was closer, I just held my gun up and shot."

Thankfully the two men were prepared and had a two-way transponder, able to communicate their whereabouts with search and rescue crews.

They're in Kamloops to meet some of the members of CFB Comox that flew in to save them. 

"It was pretty cool to meet them today," Austin told CFJC Today as he held back tears. "Words can't express what I feel to those guys."

Austin and Eyre, with the help of friends back home in the Peace River District, have also raised $33,100 and are donating it to Search and Rescue in Prince George.

"We're going to try to keep the money as local as possible," says Eyre. "Prince George is getting up and going with long-line rescue, so we're going to try to have all the money go for Prince George to help get their long-line rescue off the ground."

Both men are just so thankful for search and rescue, who are the reason they're here today. But they say in the near future, they will be back out hunting. 

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