West Yellowstone’s “Thor” survives Grizzly Attack in Idaho

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This story reprinted from EastIdahoNews.com  with the permission of Nate Eaton

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.

A bear attacked and bit Gregory “Thor” Godar in the stomach while he was hiking in Henrys Lake State Park on Friday, May 30. | Courtesy Gregory Godar

“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.”

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Nate Eaton has wanted to be a reporter since he was a child. He grew up watching the news every night, pretended to be a weatherman in the garage and made videos with his friends using a borrowed camcorder. After graduating from BYU-Idaho, he started his journalism career at KIDK in Idaho Falls. Three years and dozens of snowstorms later, he packed up his 2002 Honda Civic and drove across the country to begin work at WRIC in Richmond. While there, Nate covered the execution of the D.C. Sniper, the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting, the brutal murder of a beloved UVA lacrosse player, undercover prostitution and drug stings and countless other high-profile stories. He’s interviewed a serial killer, presidential candidates, celebrities, athletes, authors and musicians. He covered seven visits of President Obama and attended the White House Easter Egg Roll. Nate has reported in every weather condition – from hurricanes to tornadoes, floods, a large earthquake and blizzards. He once used Kit Kat bars to measure snowfall amounts and the segments went viral. Over the years, Nate has received dozens of awards, including a National Edward R. Murrow for a story he produced on a baby born at 24 weeks gestation. He’s received 11 Regional Murrow awards and the Virginia Associated Press named him Outstanding Reporter of the Year four times. He’s a proud member of the Idaho Press Club and RTDNA. In 2015, Nate moved back to Idaho Falls and helped launch EastIdahoNews.com. The website quickly became eastern Idaho’s leader for news and has been honored with dozens of awards. Nate has appeared on every national news network and his work has been featured on Dateline NBC, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Today, Good Morning America and other shows. Nate’s great accomplishment is convincing his wife to marry him. He is madly in love with Erica and they have three children – Emerson, Everett and Elliott. The world watched the Eatons announce their pregnancies with viral music videos featuring Taylor Swift and Bebe Rexha. Nate may be the only person in the world who’s been a contestant on “The Price is Right” and “Let’s Make a Deal.” Dressed as a banana and sock money, he and Erica won the “Big Deal” by picking curtain No. 3.