How a “Life Below Zero” Star Survived a Brutal Bear Attack

Life Below Zero is a documentary series on the National Geographic channel that illustrates the daily lives of subsistence hunters as they make their living in remote Alaska. Sue Aikens is one of those people, and she’s as hard as nails. She has to be, since she’s alone nine months of the year, surrounded by deadly cold and hungry wildlife. In fact, she’s known for a brutal bear attack she suffered that left her with both hips pulled out of their sockets and bite marks in her skull. She was forced to treat her own woulds, go back out to kill the bear, and then lie in her cabin for 10 days until medical help arrived. As Sue explained it, she knew a juvenile male bear was trying to take over her territory and she was keeping her eye out for him. At the time he attacked her, she was getting the last of her water from the Kavik River before it froze solid. To do that, she had to put her pump in the river. She glanced around, didn’t see anything, set her rifle down to pick up the pump, and the bear jumped out and snatched her up. He dragged her into the tundra and wrapped his jaws around her head and then began to toss her around. She struggled to maintain her composure, pointing out that you should never play dead because that puts pressure on the claws. Instead, she just rolled with it. He charged her a few more times before disappearing over the bank. Sue managed to make her way back to her camp and called for help on the air-to-ground radio, but was forced to leave a message for the troopers. They never showed up, and she found out later that they thought a bear had ransacked her camp, but hadn’t hurt her because she sounded so calm. Meanwhile, she cinched her hips together with her gun belt, sewed up her head and arm, and went out and shot the bear. Then she laid in her house fo 10 days until a pilot spotted her fuel shed open and the equipment out. He knew something was wrong, so he landed, and that’s when he found Sue. She was then flown to Fairbanks, and from there was transferred to Portland, Oregon, for spinal surgery. Needless to say, Sue made a full recovery and continues to film the series today.