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Woman walks over a mile for help after bear attack on JBER

Zaz Hollander

A woman mauled by a sow brown bear with two cubs while running late Sunday morning on an unpaved road on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson barely remembers the details of the attack.

The woman, who asked military officials not to identify her, remained at Alaska Native Medical Center in stable condition on Monday, a base spokeswoman said.

Bleeding from slashes on her head and arms, she nonetheless managed to walk a mile or more uphill back to the Davis Highway, where her pickup was parked, according to Mark Sledge, senior conservation officer on the base. A passing driver, a soldier, picked her up and brought her to the base hospital.

 “The lady had the wherewithal, the will to survive and work her way back to her truck,” Sledge said Monday afternoon. 

The woman was running on a popular training route fairly far behind her soldier husband when she startled the bears, base officials say. 

The sow and cubs came out of the trees just as she ran by, Sledge said. 

The incident occurred near Fossil Creek and Pole Line Road, just west of the Anchorage Regional Landfill, around 11:30 a.m. That section of Pole Line Road heads into the former Fort Richardson backcountry, across hilly, forested terrain behind the municipal landfill and toward the Powder Ridge development in Eagle River.

The woman’s husband, who is active-duty Army, initially called her in as missing when he noticed she wasn’t coming up behind him and couldn’t find her along the route or back at the truck, Sledge said. Security forces found him and brought him to the hospital, where his wife was already in the emergency room. 

She was described as being “in and out of consciousness” at the hospital while she and the good Samaritan were being interviewed by security force members. 

Sledge said the woman couldn’t describe the bear or the cubs. H There had been no reports of bear activity in that area of Pole Line Road, he said. 

The woman was hospitalized with lacerations to her neck and arms, base officials say. Those injuries are consistent with wounds that result when someone rolls into a ball, protecting the back of their head, during a bear attack. Sledge didn’t know if that was how the woman received her injuries, however. 

Base wildlife officials closed all recreation areas along Pole Line Road for at least a week after consulting with state wildlife biologists. It’s unlikely they’ll take any action against a bear in the area because the mauling was a defensive action taken by a sow protecting her cubs, and conservation officers would probably not be able to know it was the same bear, Sledge said. 

“The main message is don’t get complacent. I’m not saying she was,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re in downtown Anchorage or on the base, bears are everywhere.”

For more information on staying safe in bear country, go to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.