Grizzly knocks down hiker on brushy Chugach State Park trail

August 21, 2011 

A hiker in Chugach State Park was run over by a grizzly bear Sunday morning after surprising it on the overgrown South Fork Rim Trail, a state biologist said.

Dan Goodstein, his wife, Penny, and their two dogs, Tel Vor and Shoshana, were on one of their favorite trails, just a quarter-mile from their home near Prospect Heights, when they came up on the bear a little before noon.

Goodstein said he was scratched up and stepped on by the big, cinnamon-colored bruin, but not seriously hurt.

Park rangers closed the South Fork trail because of the encounter. Jessy Coltrane, Anchorage-area biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game, called it a mauling. The trail runs parallel to Powerline Trail at Prospect Heights, near the south fork of Campbell Creek.

"A single brown bear was startled at close range in very thick brush," Coltrane said. "Luckily the hiker sustained only minor injuries."

The couple were less than 30 minutes from the Prospect Heights parking lot when their dogs started acting funny. Both the dogs were on leashes and wearing bear bells.

"They got a scent of something. We realized that. But with them it could be anything from a squirrel to a bear," Goodstein said.

The couple didn't see anything. Then, in a flash, they heard it.

"It was this crunching, crashing sound of something coming through the forest. And all of a sudden, it was on us," Goodstein said.

He said the bear looked him right in the eye before it knocked him down and plowed over him.

"I think it was just trying to get past me. I don't think it was trying to attack me," Goodstein said.

Its claws scratched his chin, his chest and his arm. His shirt was tattered. It must have also come down on his thigh because he's sore and bruised there, too. He's just glad it didn't scrape his throat.

"The bear basically ran over him," Coltrane said.

Shoshana barked at the bear. Goodstein said he and his wife joked that the dog was the hero. The bear ran off.

"I was just in the way," Goodstein said.

He was able to walk back to the parking lot. At noon, the couple called 911 from the trail head to report the encounter. They then went home.

Police officers met him there and got medics to check him over. The medics told him that even though the wounds looked superficial, he should get treatment to prevent infection. Who knows where the bear's claws have been, they told him.

He went to Providence Alaska Medical Center, where he was treated and released.

Goodstein said the couple walks the trail maybe weekly. It's so close to home. The trail connects with another to make a loop, a nice, easy hike with great views.

On Sunday, he didn't get scared until it was over, and the severity of what happened sank in. He said it'll be a while before he hikes that trail again.

By late afternoon, his body was hurting. He wasn't sure about going to work today. He's a program analyst with the Transportation Security Administration.

After talking with Goodstein, Coltrane went to Prospect Heights to check the trail. She looked for a moose kill the bear might have been protecting or anything else that could have contributed to the attack. She didn't find any carcass.

She cautioned hikers to be extra vigilant for bear activity. Grizzlies are especially active now, trying to load up on salmon and berries.

The hikers on Sunday, with bear bells on their dogs, were trying to be careful, she said.

But "the South Fork Rim Trail is incredibly overgrown. It's very, very poor visibility. It's high grass on either side, and alders," she said. And it's narrow.

Just the sort of place for an unwelcome Sunday surprise encounter with a bear, she said.


Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.

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