Hunter kills one bear, tussles with another on Kodiak Island

Kyle Hopkins

A brown bear "pounced" on a hunter Saturday on Kodiak Island, biting the head of the man after he had shot and killed another bear nearby, troopers say.

The hunter, 48-year-old Rodd A. Moretz of Fairbanks, escaped the tussle with only minor scalp injuries, according to a trooper report.

"The only way you could tell he was hurt was he had a bandage on his head that his son put on," said trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters.

Mating season is approaching for the roughly 3,500 brown bears on Kodiak and nearby islands, said Larry Van Daele, an area wildlife biologist for Fish and Game. The aggressive brownie that chomped Moretz -- likely a sow -- may have confused the hunter with male brown bears itching to kill her cubs, he said.

"The way she exploded out of the den, the way (Moretz) described it, suggests she was feeling very defensive," Van Daele said.

The trouble started about 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Moretz was walking toward a 9-foot male brown bear he had just killed among the tundra and alder hillsides of Sulua Bay on the southern end of Kodiak Island, according to state officials.

As he approached the dead animal, Moretz walked past a bear den about 100 yards from the kill, troopers said.

A brown bear erupted from the den and charged the hunter, according to troopers. The bear collided with Moretz. Man and bear rolled roughly 50 feet down a hill, Peters said.

"While they were tumbling, they separated," she said.

The bear immediately bolted back to the den, Peters said. Moretz escaped, never firing a shot.

The hunter's 13-year-old son, who had fallen in alders while trying to escape the charging bear, was not injured, troopers said.

Moretz skinned and salvaged the bear he killed, according to troopers.

"He told his son, 'This is something we need to do because we shot this animal,' " said Van Daele, who interviewed the hunter.

Moretz filed paperwork on the kill with Fish and Game before heading to a Kodiak hospital for treatment, troopers said.

Authorities do not plan to go looking for the surviving brown bear, Peters said.

"It's being a bear in the woods," she said. "Not around a population base and it looks like it just happened to be a chance encounter."

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