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Officials: Grizzly mauls 66-year-old man near Slana in Interior Alaska

Jerzy Shedlock

A medical response official says a grizzly bear mauled a 66-year-old man after he surprised the animal near his Slana cabin Tuesday afternoon.

Slana resident Andre Siegenthaler was flown to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center for what was initially reported as “serious, but non-life threatening injuries,” according to a Wednesday dispatch posted online by Alaska State Troopers.

Assistant chief of Tok Area EMS Jack Rutledge said on-scene responders reported Siegenthaler had injuries to his head, left shoulder and arm.

According to the responders, the victim surprised the bear, the assistant chief said. Instead of retreating, the grizzly attacked the man for a couple of minutes before retreating into the woods, he said.

Glennallen-based troopers worked with Tok medical responders to get Siegenthaler treatment. Troopers spokesperson Beth Ipsen said a neighbor called for assistance, and the law enforcement agency got in touch with Tok Area EMS.

Rutledge said responders left for Slana shortly after 2 p.m. A response vehicle hauled a boat with equipment, which was needed as the victim’s cabin was not accessible by road.

Slana is a small community of 139 residents in southeastern Interior Alaska, 53 miles southwest of the community of Tok, which stretches along the Nabesna road.

Siegenthaler’s cabin, apparently an old homestead, is located on the other side of the river, Rutledge said, though it’s still near a collection of other homes. It took responders around an hour and 20 minutes to reach the mauling victim; they did not have exact coordinates for his cabin.

LifeMed landed on a lake a quarter-mile behind Siegenthaler’s cabin, and responders carried him to the lake, Rutledge said. The helicopter then flew Siegenthaler to the medical center.

A hospital employee said Siegenthaler was transferred to a hospital in Seattle around 3 p.m. Wednesday but would not say what his condition was at that time.

Rutledge said this was the first mauling Tok Area EMS has responded to this summer. Bear maulings are infrequent in the area, he said, with a year or more passing between attacks. “Close calls” are more common, however, he said.