A Montana man badly mauled in a bear attack in a remote region of Kodiak Island and unable to get help holed up in a cabin with his hunting partner for two days before being rescued Tuesday afternoon, according to Alaska State Troopers.
Matthew T. Sutton, 31, was attacked by three bears -- a sow and two cubs -- Sunday while hauling a deer carcass he had killed to the beach along Viekoda Bay near the Rolling Point cabin, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.
"Originally, it was a cub that knocked him over and then he stood up and I believe he yelled something at the bears, and then all three of the bears attacked him," Peters said.
Family friend Wanda Merja, reached at Sutton's home in Great Falls, Mont., Tuesday evening, said Sutton had just come to Alaska on the hunting trip Thursday. Sutton had been bitten and clawed on an arm, leg and the back of his neck during the attack, she said. Troopers characterized the injuries as non-life-threatening.
Sutton was picked up by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and flown to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center. Sutton's family had spoken to him briefly there while he was medicated but didn't have the full details of what happened, she said.
"He just got cornered by a bear, dragging a deer out, and the bears attacked him," Merja said. "At the moment, he was alone and he got away and he made it back to the cabin."
Sutton and his partner, Bill Bush, had just arrived in the remote area -- roughly 10 miles west of Port Lions -- Saturday for a week-long hunting trip, said Dean Andrew, owner of Kodiak-based charter Andrew Airways, which flew them there.
Bush told Andrew that he saw some of the attack unfolding. Sutton was coming down a pathway on a brush-covered hill at the end of the day Sunday, hauling a deer he had shot, when the bears "ambushed" him near the bottom of the hill, almost to the water's edge, Andrew said. The cubs may have actually been older animals, 2-year-olds almost out of mom's care, Andrew said.
"The bears just wanted the meat and so they just started going after him. They just bit him up really good and then they went for the deer," he said. "We have a lot of bears, but for as many bears as we have on the island, and as much human-bear interaction, we have very few of these."
Sutton made his way back to the cabin, but help was nowhere to be found. The men didn't have their own transportation and for communication only had a low-power marine VHF radio and no satellite phone.
Their radio calls went unanswered until Tuesday morning, when Andrew's pilot, Steve Larsen, was flying past on other business, he said.
"He happened to be going over pretty close and he heard a weak Mayday, so he swooped in there and saw the situation. The guy was in too much pain to even be able to move him at all," Andrew said. "We usually check on our guys about halfway through but we had just put them in there a couple days ago."
Larsen called back to base in Kodiak and reported the situation. Though the refuge cabin was only about 100 yards from the water where Larsen landed his plane, Sutton needed specialized help in moving, Andrew said. Andrew called the U.S. Coast Guard and then pulled together three men himself to fly out and help.
"These bites went deep into his neck, down to the bone, and his left arm was all bit up too, so I was concerned with the head bites and about moving him," Andrew said.
The Coast Guard got the call just before noon and in short time dispatched a Jayhawk helicopter from Kodiak, said Petty Officer Wesley Shipley.
As that aircraft was arriving on the scene, Andrew's aircraft was touching down as well. The Coast Guard rescuers, joined by Andrew's crew, loaded Sutton onto a stretcher and put him into the Jayhawk, which flew him to the Kodiak medical center.
Sutton was being flown to an Anchorage hospital Tuesday night while his family made plans to fly here to be with him, Merja said.
"He's young. He should be fine."
Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.