Grizzly Bear Attacks, Injures Boy: Bear Spray Works, Driving Off Animal

grizzly bear
A grizzly bear roams through the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Jim Urquhart/Reuters

A grizzly bear attacked and injured 10-year-old boy hiking with family in Yellowstone National Park, but effective use of bear spray drove the animal away, saving the family from more serious injury.

The female grizzly bear was defending its cub, officials said. The boy, from Washington state, was hiking late this week with three other family members on the Divide Trail, southeast of the Old Faithful geyser, the National Park Service said in a statement. The bear was with at least one cub, judging from tracks, and was likely foraging near the hiking trail when the family approached, officials said, according to USA Today.

The boy suffered non-life-threatening injuries before the family used bear spray it had in possession for the hike, effectively driving the animal away.

"The boy 'suffered an injured wrist, puncture wounds to the back and wounds around the buttocks,' the statement says," according to USA Today. "The family was able to drive off the animal using bear spray, officials report. Upon being sprayed, the bear shook its head and left."

What is bear spray?

Proven effective at stopping an aggressive behavior, bear spray is " is a non-lethal deterrent designed to stop aggressive behavior in bears. Its use can reduce human injuries caused by bears and the number of bears killed by people in self-defense. Bear spray uses a fine cloud of Capsicum derivatives to temporarily reduce a bear's ability to breath, see, and smell, giving you time to leave the area."

Rangers said they don't plan to search for the bear since it was only acting in defense of its cub. The boy was reportedly transferred to a hospital in nearby Big Sky, Montana.

Officials credited the use of bear spray in averting a more serious grizzly bear attack.

"This incident could have been more serious. We applaud the family for traveling in a group, carrying bear spray, and knowing how to effectively use it during their emergency," Pat Kenney, Yellowstone National Park deputy superintendent, said in a statement.

Grizzly bears are common in Yellowstone National Park but this was the first reported attack on a human since 2015. The National Parks Service warns that visitors to Yellowstone should be prepared to encounter bears at all times.

"All of Yellowstone is bear habitat: from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful," the NPS says. "Prepare for bear encounters no matter where you go. Your safety cannot be guaranteed, but you can play an active role in protecting yourself and the bears people come here to enjoy" by following guidelines, including never feeding bears and having bear spray.