Mauling: A dramatic, but not defining, event

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  • Detail photo of the scars on both of Anders Broste’s arms. Broste is recovering from a November 11, grizzly bear attack. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Portrait of Anders Broste on the back porch of his home in Columbia Falls. Broste has scars on both his arms and is still recovering from a grizzly attack on November 11.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Anders Broste on the back porch of his home in Columbia Falls. Broste has scars on both his arms and is still recovering from a grizzly attack that occurred Nov. 11. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Detail photo of Anders Broste’s left book. Broste said he was told that a grizzly bear bite could be as strong as 1,200 pounds per inch. His boot has penetrating teeth marks in both the top and bottom of the shoe and even the insert he wore was broken through. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • Detail photo of the scars on both of Anders Broste’s arms. Broste is recovering from a November 11, grizzly bear attack. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Portrait of Anders Broste on the back porch of his home in Columbia Falls. Broste has scars on both his arms and is still recovering from a grizzly attack on November 11.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Anders Broste on the back porch of his home in Columbia Falls. Broste has scars on both his arms and is still recovering from a grizzly attack that occurred Nov. 11. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Detail photo of Anders Broste’s left book. Broste said he was told that a grizzly bear bite could be as strong as 1,200 pounds per inch. His boot has penetrating teeth marks in both the top and bottom of the shoe and even the insert he wore was broken through. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Injuries included a broken radius bone in his right arm, a dislocated right wrist, a fractured thumb, a broken fibula in his left leg, multiple ligament tears in his left ankle and knee, muscle tears and numerous puncture wounds from bites.

He spent six days at Kalispell Regional Medical Center and endured three surgeries.

Anders Broste, 36, knows that the grizzly mauling he survived in November could have been much worse.

He estimates the bear’s attack lasted only about 15 or 20 seconds before the bruin unexpectedly turned him loose and fled.

True wilderness carries risks, including opportunities for being attacked by dangerous wild animals: Broste references this paraphrased observation, attributed to grizzly bear advocate Doug Peacock, when talking about the attack he experienced while deer hunting with a friend northwest of Columbia Falls.

And wild country can be a sustaining force for those willing to embrace both its beauty and its risks, said Anaka Broste, 36, who is Anders’ wife, a Montana native and an emergency-room nurse.

On Dec. 27, Anders Broste talked about the morning of the attack, which occurred around 9:20 a.m. Nov. 11 off Trumbull Canyon Road, about 8 miles from the Brostes’ home. And he talked about its aftermath.

On Dec. 26, casts came off his left leg and right arm. He started using a crutch instead of a walker to get around the house. He probably won’t return to work as a process engineer for Applied Materials in Kalispell until February.

He hasn’t worked since the days preceding the attack.

That morning, Broste and friend Dan Hansen climbed on Broste’s ATV and drove several miles up Trumbull Canyon Road. Broste planned to help Hansen find and shoot a deer. The men separated and began hunting through private timberland.

Broste said he was fighting his way through thick brush when the grizzly attacked. He believes the bear had been bedded down and was startled by his intrusion.

“It was sleeping and I walked into its bedroom and the bear’s reaction was perfectly understandable,” he said.

Broste tried to back away. But his retreat was hindered by the thick brush and the speed of the bear’s attack. He didn’t have time enough to click off the safety on his rifle or get a finger inside its trigger guard.

Within seconds, he lay flat on his back, having stumbled trying to backpedal to escape. The snarling bear was now on top of him. He tried to fend off the grizzly with his right arm, attempting to protect his neck and face.

Broste heard a bone snap when the bear bit down on his arm.

“I thought, ‘I don’t know how this is going to end,’” Broste said. “I thought, ‘This could be it.’”

He said the bear was “wet and kind of gross” but he doesn’t recall any strong odor.

Hansen was probably about 150 yards away when the attack occurred, Broste said.

“I started screaming immediately. Dan said he heard noises but couldn’t discern what they were,” he said.

The bear shifted its attention to Broste’s left leg.

“It bit my leg, shook it around and then grabbed my boot,” he said.

When the bruin sunk its teeth into the La Sportiva brand hiking boot and began to drag him, Broste felt a fleeting burst of dismay that he was going to lose the boot.

One of the bear’s teeth passed between two of Broste’s toes. As the grizzly shook Broste’s left leg and dragged him several feet, the bear tore tendons and ligaments in that leg and broke the fibula - causing damage that will require prolonged rehabilitation.

And then, suddenly, inexplicably, the grizzly halted its attack and ran off.

“I have no idea why,” Broste said.

Hansen responded to Broste’s screams and was soon at his side. Broste asked Hansen to be prepared to shoot if the bear returned.

The men had cellphone service. Hansen phoned Anaka Broste, who was at home that Sunday morning.

She didn’t recognize the phone number but answered anyway. Hansen told her Anders had been mauled and that she should drive up Trumbull Canyon Road and meet them.

Anaka recalled, “I’m pretty sure my heart rate was about 220.”

Meanwhile, still fueled by adrenaline, Broste was not yet aware of the extent of his injuries, especially to his leg. He had pictured being able to walk to the ATV.

“I stood up and I was weight bearing. I took like three steps and fell in the snow,” he recalled.

Hansen phoned Anaka with this update and she implored the men to call 911. She then drove up Trumbull Canyon Road as far as she could and made her way to the staging area with assistance from a sheriff’s deputy from Flathead County.

Ultimately, emergency responders included the ALERT helicopter from Kalispell Regional Medical Center, Two Bear Air, North Valley Search and Rescue and the Sheriff’s Office.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Wildlife Human Attack Response Team also traveled to the scene to investigate the mauling.

The team concluded the attack had been triggered by a “surprise encounter,” circumstances that precluded taking action against the bear. The animal wasn’t found during the investigation.

In the days immediately following the mauling, Broste said he bore no ill will against the grizzly.

“I don’t blame the bear,” he said then. “I was in its territory. It did what a bear does.”

Broste is an avid outdoorsman. He bikes, skis, hikes, rafts, fishes and hunts.

“I spend more time outdoors than I do indoors,” he said.

Anaka Broste shares that predilection. She said it was difficult initially to accept that Anders’ injuries and related rehabilitation would limit for an extended period his activities outdoors.

“There were a few days of mourning and then there was the realization that it could have been much worse,” she said.

Anaka said her husband’s ordeal has made her more bear aware.

“I went for a run a few days after he got mauled and I took bear spray with me, something I’d never done before,” she said.

Anders was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, one of Nels and Sally Broste’s three sons. He grew up in northern Virginia. He later attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, majoring in materials science and engineering.

Broste moved to Whitefish in 2007, left for a time and then returned in 2014. In 2017, he married Anaka, and the couple moved to the house they purchased in the vicinity of Trumbull Canyon Road.

Now, Broste participates three times a week in physical therapy. He hopes the injuries he suffered will not unduly affect his active lifestyle going forward. A GoFundMe campaign raised $10,825 to help pay his medical bills and the couple said the response of family, friends and the tight-knit regional outdoors community has been remarkable.

If money from the fund remains after the bills are paid, the couple will donate money to regional search-and-rescue teams and trail advocacy groups, Broste said.

He said he does not suffer from bad dreams or flashbacks linked to the mauling.

“We’ll see how I handle it the first time I get out in the woods,” he said.

The circumstances of the attack and his rescue, aided by fortuitous access to cellphone coverage, have left lasting impressions about how to prepare for forays into the forests and mountains where such coverage does not exist, Broste said.

“If you go out there, give yourself the ability to get help,” he said.

Meanwhile, when Broste has ventured from home, his obvious injuries have frequently triggered questions from strangers about what caused them.

He said he has answered the inquiries and occasionally sensed that some people haven’t believed his responses.

The mauling was a dramatic life event, he acknowledges.

“But it’s not going to define who I am. It’s just something that happened to me.”

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at dadams@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4407.

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