A 12-year-old Seward boy walking to his school bus stop in the Bear Lake area was knocked down by a brown bear sow before dawn Tuesday morning but escaped with superficial injuries.
"There were some minor puncture wounds from a claw," said Steve Atwater, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District superintendent, who declined to name the boy or specify the location of the encounter.
The student was taken to the Providence Seward Hospital, where he was treated and released into the care of his parents.
Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said the sow, accompanied by two cubs, huffed and growled at the boy before approaching.
"The boy was wearing a backpack, which received most of the bear's attention," Peters said.
"That backpack," noted trooper Sgt. Marc Cloward, who responded, "probably saved him from some puncture wounds."
After the bear knocked him down, the boy covered up, Atwater said. As soon as the boy stopped moving, the bear left. The boy, who was alone, used his cell phone to call home and was picked up by his father.
His parents took him to the hospital.
"It's a very scary moment but a huge relief how it turned out," Atwater said.
"The boy did all the right things," she said. "This incident could have ended very badly -- but fortunately didn't."
Cloward attempted to track the bear for about an hour before abandoning the effort. By the size of the paw prints, he estimated the animal weighed 300-400 pounds. Cloward said he planned to return to the area Tuesday night.
"If the bear shows back up in the neighborhood any time soon it will most likely be dispatched," said Peters. Both the state troopers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game agree it should be killed if it reappears, she said, because the bear went "too far" pursuing the boy.
"It's unfortunate but it's a public safety issue," Cloward said. "She's programmed to do what she's going to do. It was dark and she was feeding on berries in somebody's yard. Soon as he laid down, she took off."
Fish and Game area management biologist Jeff Selinger, based in Soldotna, said, "We started on our way over there (but) I talked at length with Marc about what actually had happened and what to do."
Bears have not yet gone into hibernation, and school district spokeswoman Kelly Reising urged parents to stay with their children while waiting for the school bus to arrive.
"He was pretty impressive," Cloward said of the boy, whom he interviewed after the incident. "He mentioned that initially he screamed. But when the bear knocked him down, he realized he was doing the wrong thing. He told me, 'I think she was just as scared as I was.' "
Reach reporter Mike Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 257-4329.