Bear Attack in Alaska Stopped with .40 S&W Pistol

The bear who attacked the Bates family was a sow about 20 years old, estimated at 350 lbs. It was starving, with nothing in the stomach but parasites.

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)-– The bear who attacked the Bates family was a sow about 20 years old, estimated at 350 lbs. It was starving, with nothing in the stomach but parasites.

The attack occurred as the Bates family, Weatherly Bates, her husband, their 12-year-old son, Rockwell, their 10-year-old daughter Vera, and two family dogs, on leashes, were hiking on the Glacier Moraine Trail in Kachemak Bay State park.

Weatherly Bates had a .40 caliber S&W in her backpack. The bear came at them at about 3 p.m., even though they yelled at it and bunched together.

Weatherly Bates explains what happened:

“It did attack. It was a predatory bear That year we had a lot of problems. The bears were starving. There was, like, no berries. We were hiking and we noticed there was a bear spray cap on the ground. A couple of minutes later a bear came up behind us.  I tried to yell and scare it away, but it kept coming. I did have a gun in my backpack, so I started backing up to my husband.”

Weatherly’s husband accessed the pistol from her backpack. Weatherly continues:

“I could tell this bear wasn’t stopping. Our dog got in between the bear and our son. She didn’t even bark at it. It tackled her and started biting her head. We let our other dog go, he was on a leash. He started biting the bear. We think that is what saved our female German Shepard.

My husband had to grab the bear and get it so he could dispatch it without shooting our dog. He shot it point blank in the spine. It took two shots before it let go. Then he shot it about five more times.”

Weatherly said about two weeks previously, a biologist had been waking in the park with her dogs. She had pepper sprayed the bear at that time.

Weatherly said:  “When we put it down, it smelled like heavy pepper spray. ” 

Weatherly said it was the same bear that attacked them. Its head was down, its eyes locked on them.

The bear was a 20-year-old sow full of parasites. She was starving and had worn teeth.

The old sow’s teeth were worn but capable of inflicting deadly damage.

Weatherly said the attack happened fairly quickly. The bear came on at a brisk walk, not a charge. Her husband bruised his shins as he fought with the bear to move it, so he could shoot without endangering their dog, Sally.

Her son, 12-year-old Rockwell Bates, had a .22 rifle for hunting spruce grouse. The bear was killed before Rockwell could bring the rifle into play, which would have required a precise shot.

This shows another advantage of a handgun for defense; it is easy to maneuver in close quarters with one hand. The pistol used in this case was a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson model SW40F, loaded with Federal hollowpoint ammunition.

Weatherly believes if they had holstered pistols when the attack occurred, they could have prevented the damage to their dog.

Weatherly says the family does a lot of hiking. They now carry 12 gauge shotguns and pistols in chest holsters. Weatherly now carries a Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol in a chest holster.

The bear was reported to the authorities and a Defense of Life and Property (DLP) form was filled out. The Bates family obtained the help of friends to remove the bear from the park.

Weatherly believed the bear was desperate for food. She said dozens of bears had come into Halibut Cove searching for food because of the failed berry crop, and wildfires, in 2020. She reported many other bears were shot and killed in their community.

Sally, the German Shepherd, had puncture wounds and had to get massive amounts of antibiotics, but she recovered.

Weatherly was kind enough to give this correspondent leads on another couple of bear attacks in the area, which were stopped with pistol fire.

It remains to be seen if those attacks can be documented.

The attack on was also covered by kbbi.org as reported on October 15, 2020.


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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Duane

It would be interesting to know what ammunition and or bullet style was used. I have seen [email protected] 180gr JHP federals fail to break the spine or neck on a 400 pound black bear. I had the bullets laying around for years. They had hardly any expansion. This was back in the day when they were making a medium powered 180gr load about 900fps. I knew the person who shot the bear and then taxidermist who recovered the bullets. He found them against the spine when he skinned it. The bear was finished off with a 12ga slug. A lot… Read more »

Last edited 28 days ago by Duane
Rodoeo

JHP is the problem

Novice.but.learning

Dean: Very interesting article about this black bear attack, and the back story associated with it. I called KBBI.ORG and spoke with one of the staff. I am interested in WHEN this defensive use of the S&W occurred. The person I spoke with told me she knew the Bates family personally, and that they reported the bear repeatedly returned to harass them as they walked the trail. She didn’t know the date of the event, but thought the family encountered the sow sometime in September before snow arrived. The article was posted by KBBI on 15 October 2020 not very… Read more »

Bill

Thank you for these reports and the deficiencies from bear spray and need for pistols readily available!!

SEMPAI

Well done. Bring the 10mm next time.

Last edited 28 days ago by SEMPAI
loveaduck

My black bear gun of choice. 44 mag for the real biggies.

Rodoeo

I carry an old Glock 35 5.1” barrel 17 capacity .40 with hard cast. It will 90% of what a 10mm shorter barrel and off the shelf ammo and higher capacity

Last edited 28 days ago by Rodoeo
Oldman

The moral to this story is that when walking in bear country one should have a defensive weapon on the hip or chest loaded, one in the chamber, and not hollow points. A solid deep penetrating bullet is far more effective than HP’s on any large predator. These folks were lucky, IMO.

Duane

Being armed his far more important then with what.

But that said carrying a more effective firearm is better IMHO.

Last edited 28 days ago by Duane
Toolbox

I agree with Oldman. The moment that you set foot into an area where large predators live, you have to be prepared to defend yourself and your family in the event that you encounter one. It’s their home, not ours. I’ve heard it said that black bears don’t usually bluff charge without young, and unprovoked. So for one to do so, there’s usually something wrong with it, like starvation, so if it charges it’s probably planning to eat you! You have no choice but to kill it, so for that you need the right gun and ammo. You don’t want… Read more »

Prvtpyle

I understand the newsworthyness? of the article. At the same time I feel stories like these only encourage being undergunned in similar situations. Folks with 9s and 40s now feel protected in bear country. Yes, some with the training and practice can be effective. Bigger caliber firearms are your best bet. I would not be caught walking in bear country with anything less than a 10mm with good hardcast bullets. Anything is better than nothing I guess…

Tionico

Perhaps you are unaware of the long-time hard work Dean Weingarten has done, and published here, documenting what appears to be a near-exhaustive study of Man vs Bear and the role firearms have played in that ongoing contest. Some time back he included a table reporting a large number of attacks, what firearm (or none at all) was brought to bear in the situation, and the results. He included the calibre and type of gun involved, often how many rounds were fired, etc. I do not recall him making any “recommendations” just reporting what happened in the events. But the… Read more »

Prvtpyle

I am very aware of the article. That doesn’t change any of what I said. I never said he made any recommendations, only that there are some who will see an article and see 9mm or 40s&w or whatever and think they are safe because someone else did it.

Ope

Tionico, you’re so right about Dean. He’s the absolute authority on bears and I’ve enjoyed his articles very much over the years. His articles are very detailed , precise and informative.

Last edited 27 days ago by Ope
Deplorable Bill

Not much was said about the run up to the attack. We don’t know how it happened, distances etc. We suppose that they were hiking as a family and not spread out over several hundred yds. That probably saved lives. Well, at least they were AWARE, they were armed and willing to use it. Finding the cap to a bear spray bottle on the trail would raise my eyebrows also. Did the bear spray work? In my opinion, pepper spray used against a predatory bear, is not much more than seasoning to be used on those who are attacked. Carry… Read more »