For the second time in six weeks, an Anchorage resident has been mauled by a grizzly bear in Far North Bicentennial Park.
The woman, who has yet to be identified, was reported to be jogging along Campbell Creek around 6 p.m. Friday evening when she was attacked by a sow with two cubs.
What is believed to be the same bear has been involved in a variety of aggressive confrontations with people since June. Rick Sinnott, the area's wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, believes it was this bear that chased a mountain biker down the Rover's Run trail earlier this summer and came within inches of sinking its teeth into a University of Alaska Anchorage cross-country runner on the Spencer Loop Trail in late July.
Neither of those people was injured.
The situation escalated on Friday when the bear caught hold of a woman and caused what Anchorage police called serious injuries -- biting and clawing her on her torso, arm and neck. The woman was able to pull herself together after the attack, hike back down Rover's Run to the Tour of Anchorage Trail, and make her way from there out to Campbell Airstrip Road, where she flagged down a passing car.
"This is Alaska: big, wild life," said police Sgt. Pablo Paiz. "You have to be careful when you're out here in the woods. There's always a possibility that something's gonna jump out and grab you. You get between a sow and its cubs and a sow's gonna do what a sow's gonna do."
A number of passers-by stopped to help the injured woman, including an off-duty firefighter, said Senior Capt. James Dennis with the Anchorage Fire Department. When emergency personnel reached her, she was conscious and said she had been attacked by a brown bear accompanied by two cubs, he said. She was taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center in serious condition.
With her in treatment, police on the scene began a hasty patrol down Rover's Run, toting shotguns and non-lethal weapons as they examined the scene of the attack. There was no bear, but paw prints and fliers already posted warned of the potential danger, including one that said a sow and two cubs were in the area.
Jogging through the thick, green woods on a quiet, near-windless evening on which occasional thunderstorms rolled through the Anchorage area, the woman ran into the bear along Campbell Creek not far downstream from where 15-year-old Petra Davis was mauled during a 24-hour mountain bike race on June 29.
The young Anchorage cyclist spent more than a week in the hospital and is still recovering from bite wounds to her neck, shoulder and thigh.
"A great deal of time each week, almost every day, is attributed to follow-up doctor appointments and physical therapy," her mother, Darcy, said in an e-mail to friends this week. "I look forward to the day my family will feel comfortable again biking and walking in the Far North Bicentennial Park. Unfortunately, I think that day is pretty far off. What a tragedy for us all!"
Wildlife officials do not know if the sow that was involved in Friday's mauling was the bear that attacked Petra in the worst mauling in the history of the 4,000-acre park on the city's east side.
A wild area tight up against the spreading urban jungle, the park is bounded by Tudor Road on the north and Abbott Road on the south. To the east, the wilderness of Chugach State Parks sprawls across mountains and valleys for tens of miles.
Recent studies by Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Sean Farley have documented heavy bear use in the park and the adjacent Bureau of Land Management Campbell Tract.
Over the course of two summers, scientists using hair traps to snag fur from bears passing along Campbell Creek identified 36 different grizzlies from their genetic fingerprints, but they didn't get fur from every bear in the area.
"Undoubtedly, the true population of bears using the study area is larger than 36 individuals,'' Farley wrote in which he noted that four of the 11 radio-collared bears he tracked in the area never gave up any fur samples.
Sinnott and assistant area wildlife biologist Jessy Coltrane, herself a runner, consider Rover's Run among the most likely places in the park to encounter a bear. Both have tried to warn runners and cyclists to be wary of the area now that spawning salmon are in the stream, attracting hungry bears.
Designed as a winter skijoring trail, Rover's in the summer is a twisting, turning, single-track rut through thick patches of spruce forest, willow thickets and cottonwood groves close along salmon-filled Campbell Creek. Farley's radio-collared bears used the route regularly as a trail, he said.
The trail is especially popular with experienced mountain bikers because of its technical challenges. Some Anchorage residents knowledgeable about bears have felt comfortable using the trail during the day when grizzlies are normally least active, but Farley warned that his radio-collared tracking of the bears showed no particular pattern of use. These bears, he said, seemed to be as active in and around the Rover's Run trail at midday as at any other time.
Anchorage police on Friday put up crime scene tape and a note warning of the most recent bearing mauling at one entrance to the trail system leading into Rover's, but there are multiple entrances and exits to the trail. One of the most heavily used -- just off the Tour of Anchorage Trail near BLM's little-used Campbell Airstrip -- already sported an orange bear-warning poster that Sinnott posted after UAA runner Auston Ellis narrowly escaped a mauling at the end of July.
Ellis accidentally ran between a sow and two cubs. He was chased down the trail by the sow, then dove into the woods and managed to keep a large alder bush between himself and the bear until she tired of trying to get hold of him and left to go round up her cubs.
In mid-June, skier Rick Rogers and a friend were run over by a sow with two cubs while running on the Double Bubble Trail in Hillside Park. The bear almost stepped on Rogers' head, but he -- like Ellis -- somehow escaped injury.
Both the Double Bubble and Spencer Loop trails are within a mile or two of where the woman was mauled Friday evening.
The second mauling in six weeks comes after 13 years without a serious attack in the Anchorage area. Though a couple people have been injured by grizzlies near the Eagle River visitor center, no one has ended up hospitalized or dead since Marcie Trent, 77, and her son, Larry Waldron, 45, died on the McHugh Creek Trail in May of 1995. The stumbled on a bear defending a moose kill, and it attacked.
That bear was never found.
Neither Sinnott nor Coltrane could be reached Friday night to comment on whether an attempt would be made to identify the bear involved in the latest attack and relocate or remove it.