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Special Report filed by AAf Correspondent: Scott Tingley
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Attacks Glacier hikers
Animal's charge left no time to use pepper spray
Monday, August 14, 2000
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont. - Backpackers Kelly Krpata and Kim Taffer had just descended Monday from a heavenly scene above the clouds at Swiftcurrent Pass in Glacier National Park when they rounded a bend and faced a hiker's nightmare -- a charging bear.
The business students from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor had just four miles left of their five-day, 55-mile hike, said Krpata, who was recovering Tuesday in a Great Falls hospital after he was bitten on his thighs and hips.
The hikers were talking and whistling and the small bear bell on Taffer's pack was ringing as they neared Bullhead Lake in upper Swiftcurrent Valley, moments before the attack.
Krpata, 26, and his girlfriend, Taffer, 27, may owe their survival to their act of lying still on the ground, park spokeswoman Amy Vanderbilt said.
Krpata said he dropped to the ground and curled up in a fetal position, with his backpack serving as protection. He didn't have time to unclip a canister of pepper spray from a shoulder strap on his pack.
"I just waited it out," he said. "It was on top of me about 10 seconds, and it did some good work in those 10 seconds. I was screaming, trying to... I don't even know what I was trying to do. I had my face buried in the dirt."
Taffer said she heard the bear approach her as she lay motionless.
"I could see brown out of the corner of my eye, and it felt like it was about a foot away from my head," she said. "All of a sudden, it turned and walked away."
The bear shredded Krpata's sleeping pad, which was strapped on his pack, and also tore the pack.
Rescuers moved Krpata 31/2 miles on a wheeled litter to a trailhead, where he was picked up by an ambulance, Vanderbilt said.
Park officials were examining bear droppings to try to learn if the attacker was a black or a grizzly bear.
Krpata said a doctor told him to forget his plans to run with Taffer in the Chicago marathon in October.
He said he will not give up hiking.
"But I may not do it in bear country," he said.