Bear Attack: The Story of Seven Boys and One Grizzly

Seven high school students were near the end of their month-long survival course in the Alaskan wilderness, but the real schooling began when they came face to snout with the wildest thing of all.

Bear Attack: The Story of Seven Boys and One GrizzlyIllustration by Yuko Shimizu
At a shallow pool in a nameless creek, deep in the Alaskan wilderness, seven boys are laughing and lunging and splashing as they try to haze a pair of beleaguered little fish into their mosquito nets. Fishing is not allowed, but they took leave of their instructors several hours ago and are having their Lord of the Flies moment of fun.

Have a look at them: Joshua Berg, 17, from New City, New York, the group’s elected leader and most experienced outdoorsman. Noah Allaire, 16, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, a lifeguard and gifted student who skipped two grades in school and will be starting college in the fall. Sam Gottsegen, 17—“Gottsy” to the group—from Denver, avid snowboarder, affable and laid-back. Sam Melman, 17, a volunteer in a New York hospital’s intensive care unit. Victor Martin, 18, a muscular basketball player from a tough part of Richmond, California. Shane Garlock, 16, from Pittsford, New York, photographer and cross-country runner. And Sam Boas, 16, from Westport, Connecticut, ardent cook and certified emergency medical responder.

They are students of the prestigious National Outdoor Leadership School on a month-long course during summer vacation from high school. It’s 7:30 in the evening on July 23, 2011, and they’ve spent the past 24 days backpacking through the rugged western Talkeetna Mountains with three instructors, learning leadership and outdoor skills, including first aid. They’re now about 40 miles northeast of the nearest town, Talkeetna, separated from any sign of human habitation by miles of rough, trackless country. This is the last leg of the trip, when the students are cut loose to find their own way to a train track 24 miles away, where they will rendezvous with their instructors in three days. Until then, they have no way of communicating with their instructors or with the outside world. They are truly alone. Earlier today, just before the boys set out, one of the instructors looked at them and, grinning, left them with this advice: “Don’t die.”

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24 thoughts on “Bear Attack: The Story of Seven Boys and One Grizzly

  1. Excuse me, I was apart of that 14 person NOLS trip and we were given and properly shown how to use bear mace. The brave part wasnt that we got attacked, it was the fact that we were able to keep two severely injured kids alive for EIGHT hours after being viciously mauled by a 500 pound grizzly bear. Plus how if we had a riffle could we have shot the bear if we came around a corner and it charged us??? hmmmmmmm no. Unless you were a sharp shooter with the fastest draw in the world that bear was going to attack us. So to all the people calling us stupid, get your facts straight before you start commenting on something you know absolutely nothing about.

    1. Sorry about what you went through, it was your choice to go into the wilderness and it was your reason and logic that got you through the situation relatively unharmed fatally. With that said id like to ask how sharp was the turn and what makes you think that a shot fired in the air would not have disabled the bear allowing you guys to retreat in the bushes or to higher safer ground??

  2. About this grizzly story, the camp counselor ignored one important rule about going into the wilderness. Never go into the wilderness without a rifle& ammo. if even one adult had a rifle & knew how to use it he could have shot that bear & rescued those boys from this grizzly attack. so my comment to them BONEHEADS NEVER GO INTO THE WILDERNESS WITHOUT A RIFLE!  

  3. This is one of the best articles I have ever read and describes not only the horrendous details, but the strength and courage that the young men had to muster.   My hats are off to Readers Digest for printing the article for us to interrelate to the victims.   This is something that could happen to any of our family that may go on an “adventure”.    Thanks again.      Mary Harvey

  4. This is one of the best articles I have ever read and describes not only the horrendous details, but the strength and courage that the young men had to muster.   My hats are off to Readers Digest for printing the article for us to interrelate to the victims.   This is something that could happen to any of our family that may go on an “adventure”.    Thanks again.      Mary Harvey

    1. This is one of the best articles you’ve ever read?  It has almost no details about who these people were.

      1. I hardly care about who they were, because before this im sure they were the same as any other boy or girl in their school , its a situation that requires heroics and apptitude that drills you into who you will be immediately after the situation. Sure they had lives before the bear attack but it was the attack that allowed them to forget their ordinary mundane high school lives and act in that moment focused as human as human can be not some type of personality society drills into you, there is a reason afterall they took the course, to learn how to survive outside of rapid telephone communication, immediate transport and direct 911 call access, in other word the opposite of what our modern nations tell us and teach us.

  5. Hmm… Recently,
    I saw a tag on a baby stroller at Wal-Mart,  “Caution: remove child
    before folding carriage!” Maybe, they need to put a tattoo on these kids
    foreheads: “Caution: always carry a gun in bear territory!”
    Furthermore, the news recently (about two years ago) A husband-and-wife team
    videotaping their activities with their interaction with bears, were then eaten
    while their video camera recorded the whole horrific event. Don’t they
    have television or newspapers in Alaska?  Internet? Tony Dahlin Venice

  6. Hmm… Recently,
    I saw a tag on a baby stroller at Wal-Mart,  “Caution: remove child
    before folding carriage!” Maybe, they need to put a tattoo on these kids
    foreheads: “Caution: always carry a gun in bear territory!”
    Furthermore, the news recently (about two years ago) A husband-and-wife team
    videotaping their activities with their interaction with bears, were then eaten
    while their video camera recorded the whole horrific event. Don’t they
    have television or newspapers in Alaska?  Internet? Tony Dahlin Venice

    1. If you mean Timothy Treadwell, it was his girlfriend.  They weren’t married.  The park services begged him to leave the bears alone.  Because of him, two of them were shot.

    2. If you mean Timothy Treadwell, it was his girlfriend.  They weren’t married.  The park services begged him to leave the bears alone.  Because of him, two of them were shot.

    3. From the story I read the boys would not have had time to use a gun. And if they had used one the outcome might have been worst. I thought that this was a great article of a group of young men that survived and were tested on the survival and leadership skills that they had been taught. even though the test was delivered in such a terrable way. I think that most outdoors/woodsmen might not have faired so well

    4. The video camera was on in a backpack.It did not record the attack or the  husband and wife being eaten.Only the husband was partially eaten as well,not the wife.Only audio was gotten and the ones who found them were not sure if the bear they killed was responsible,that it could have fed off them after they were killed.

    5. The outfit they were with “doesn’t allow firearms”–they prefer their customers become Bear S HIT instead of being able to protect themselves.

  7. Hmm… Recently,
    I saw a tag on a baby stroller at Wal-Mart,  “Caution: remove child
    before folding carriage!” Maybe, they need to put a tattoo on these kids
    foreheads: “Caution: always carry a gun in bear territory!”
    Furthermore, the news recently (about two years ago) A husband-and-wife team
    videotaping their activities with their interaction with bears, were then eaten
    while their video camera recorded the whole horrific event. Don’t they
    have television or newspapers in Alaska?  Internet? Tony Dahlin Venice

  8. I thought that this was one of the best Reader Digest issues yet!! ..I loved all your articles, the one about the Brown Bear was a tribute to our sense of survival and team work, but I also loved the article about ‘That’s Outragous! Escpecially the part about the ‘Fear People’…but I love the ‘Your Are Welcome Amercia, Now Hire us’!!! , like I said this is one of your best edititions, yet!!!
    Thank you Readers Digest!! 

  9. I have always loved reading the reader’s digest, I thought it had gone out of business. However I have so many medical bills to pay, that this will interfere with. I will think about this offer. I read all you had to temp me with.

  10. I have always loved reading the reader’s digest, I thought it had gone out of business. However I have so many medical bills to pay, that this will interfere with. I will think about this offer. I read all you had to temp me with.

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