Brown bear mauling near Kenai River badly injures trapper

mtheriault@adn.comNovember 13, 2012 

Two trappers from the Anchorage area were mauled by a brown bear in a remote area of the Kenai Peninsula over the weekend, with one man sustaining severe injuries, authorities said Tuesday.

The mauling happened Saturday afternoon in the Sterling area, said Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife technician Larry Lewis Tuesday.

Here's how the attack unfolded, according to an account given to Lewis by one of the trappers:

The two men were setting coyote snares in an undeveloped, wooded area near mile 42 of the Kenai River, in the vicinity of a spot known to fishermen as "Torpedo Hole."

They were separated but in shouting distance when one man heard roaring and growling.

"Then he heard his buddy yelling," Lewis said.

He ran to assist and saw the bear on top of his friend.

The man yelled at the bear, which then turned its attentions to him.

"He instinctively ran," Lewis said.

As he rolled into the fetal position, the bear swatted him and tore at his clothes, but then left him to again maul the first man, Lewis said.

By the time the bear left the first man, identified as a 46-year-old from the Anchorage area, he had been bitten twice -- once on the head and once on the lower body, said Central Emergency Services spokesman Brad Nelson.

The second man, who Lewis said was left with bruises and torn clothes, was able to get his friend onto their boat .

They met medics at a boat launch near the Kenai Keys subdivision and the more seriously injured man was transferred to a hospital in Soldotna and then sent to Anchorage, Nelson said. He is still hospitalized.

November can be a popular time for early-season trappers who want to travel without encountering much snow, Lewis said. Bears are not necessarily hibernating at this time of year.

"If there's still food available, and there seems to be quite a bit available, they can be up," he said.

Lewis said flooding earlier in the fall has left salmon carcasses washed up above the river's high water mark.

"Those bears seem to be out picking it up," he said.

It's not known what spurred the attack, but the trappers and Fish and Game think the bear may have been a surprised sow protecting her young. The second trapper went back the next day to collect his snares and noticed bear cub tracks in the area, Lewis said.

The department has no immediate plans to find and kill the animal.

"This is a remote location," he said. "It seems like a pretty classic surprise encounter."

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.

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