In a summer stacking up as unusual for the number of people injured by bears and the number of brown bears shot, another person has been bitten and clawed by a brown bear in the Anchorage area.
Earlier this week, Mike and Tammy Anthony drove to Anchorage on a regular shopping trip. They often spend the night in Chugach State Park’s Eagle River campground near the Glenn Highway bridges over Eagle River. Typically, they wrap up the shopping the next morning and drive home to North Kenai.
This shopping trip was a little different.
Arriving in the campground after a day of shopping, they found a campsite. When Tammy returned from paying the campground fee, she told Mike she’d noticed a nice-looking trail leading to the river. About 7:30 p.m., they went for a walk, meeting several people on the trail on a quarter-mile hike along one of the most- popular trails in the campground area.
Approximately 200 yards upstream from a yellow boat-takeout sign, Mike saw bear prints in a sandy area off the trail and went to look at them. That’s when they heard a roar and the sound of a bear “busting out of the brush.” Tammy screamed, and the bear lunged at her.
Mike saw a small cub, born last winter, whose presence likely precipitated the attack. He hollered at his wife to run to him, hoping that they could step into the fast-moving stream and be swept to safety.
Wearing Crocs, not the best footwear for sprinting through the woods, Tammy tripped over the bank and the bear landed on top of her. Recovering its footing, the sow attempted to bite the back of her head. Mike yelled and ran toward the bear to distract it. The sow grabbed Tammy’s foot and attempted to drag her away, but her Croc came off in the bear’s jaws, and both the sow and cub disappeared into the brush. After just 20 seconds, it was all over.
In recounting the story, Mike gave his wife’s Crocs a great deal of credit. “A tennis shoe might have been worse,” he said, because they might not have come off so easily.
Hobbling back to camp, they found someone with wilderness first aid training and a trauma kit who irrigated Tammy’s wounds with a syringe and applied an antibiotic to the puncture wounds on her ankle and the scratches and punctures on her lower leg. The Anthonys didn’t intend to go to a doctor for treatment, but the ankle continued bleeding even after getting back to North Kenai. A doctor found one of the bear’s teeth had punctured a bone and several blood vessels while fracturing her ankle.
The mauling was reported to Larry Lewis, a Fish and Game wildlife technician based in Soldotna, a few days after the Anthonys had returned home.
Mike believes they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. People were all over the trail, and he warned several people who were starting down the trail about the bear attack. Neither Mike nor Tammy Anthony carried a gun or bear spray. A short walk in the woods is all they contemplated.
This has been the worst summer for bear maulings in the municipality since 2008, when three people were injured by brown bears in Anchorage and Eagle River and another person was swatted by a black bear in Eagle River. Previously this summer two people were mauled, one in Eagle River and one near Bird Creek.
The summer has also proven deadly for at least four young brown bears in the Anchorage area. Two of the bears were shot by wildlife authorities after exhibiting a pattern of behavior that was likely to result in human injuries. The other two brown bears, including one which escaped from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage, were shot in defense of life or property.
Rick Sinnott is a former Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist and a regular Alaska Dispatch contributor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org