KAYSVILLE -- Brandon Kelly is aware the following story could have turned out very differently if not for the quick thinking of his young sons and a few other strokes of luck.
As it ended up, though, his family is safe after a bear encounter while spending Father's Day camping near Camp New Fork in Wyoming.
"We're fortunate the story is we're all OK," Kelly said. "The story could have been a mother and daughter come home after four of their family members were mauled by a bear."
The young bear first encountered members of the family while Kelly and his wife were away at the main lodge, and three of their children were at their campground. Despite the family having taken proper precautions to clean up the campground, some leftover grease used to cook breakfast lured the bear to the back of their trailer, and 11-year-old Baden tried scaring it off by yelling.
But the bear charged Baden and 7-year-old Mariah, getting to within five feet of them before Baden grabbed his little sister. Older brother Logan, 15, then scared off the bear enough to get Baden and Mariah to safety inside a cabin.
"I'm proud of my boys for saving my little girl," said Brandon Kelly, who described the ordeal as gut-wrenching. "She's the glue of the family."
But the bear, which Kelly said he later found out was 1 to 2 years old and weighed about 75 pounds, wasn't quite done terrorizing the Kelly family. When Kelly came back to the campground to ensure the safety of his kids after he had heard a bear was in the area, he found no sign the bear was still there. But that was only because it was in a tree above him, as he later found out when he looked up. He was eventually able to chase it out of the camp, after which he called in forest rangers.
"As a parent, my first reaction was to take off for camp after hearing about the bear," said Kelly, adding that a potential mother bear was a worry. "If I would have known the bear was above me, I would have taken different measures.
"It's a good lesson that you can't just look on the ground for bears."
Kelly said he was told the bear, which had been getting into campgrounds for several weeks, later wandered into a different camp. When wildlife officers tried to contain it, the bear turned on the officers, who were forced out of self-defense to shoot and kill it.