Wildlife

Hiker bitten by brown bear near Skilak Lake after his dog chased the bear, officials say

A hiker accompanied by an unleashed dog was bitten by a brown bear Sunday night on a trail near Skilak Lake, a Kenai National Wildlife Refuge park ranger said.

The Upper Kenai River Trail was closed early Monday after the attack was reported to refuge staff, Ranger Leah Eskelin said.

Around 8 p.m., the hiker came across a brown bear sow with two cubs, Eskelin said.

“The adult male’s dog chased the bear which caused the sow to charge the hiker,” Alaska State Troopers wrote in an online statement.

The man was bitten on the arm and then entered the Kenai River, troopers said. The bear followed and bit him on the shoulder before leaving the area, troopers said. The man had bear spray with him but was unable to deploy it during the attack, according to troopers.

The man made his way back to his vehicle and called for help. He was transported to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, troopers said.

A 13-month-old border collie that was with the hiker went missing after the attack and has not been found, Eskelin said. Anyone in the area who sees an unattended dog is asked to call the park headquarters at 907-262-7021.

Two people were badly injured about two weeks earlier when a bear broke into their tent and mauled them while they slept at a dispersed camping area near the Hidden Creek Trail on Skilak Lake. Eskelin said the attacks do not appear to be related.

“There were no other reports of any aggressive bears or any sightings of concern in the area,” Eskelin said.

The trail, a roughly 5.6-mile round-trip hike that begins on Skilak Lake Road and leads to the Kenai River Canyon, was closed Monday morning to prevent further encounters and so rangers could investigate, Eskelin said. The investigation was in the early stages Monday, but officials were hoping to fill in details about what happened, she said. The bear had not been located by law enforcement by midday Monday, troopers said.

Signs were posted at the trailhead about the closure and bear activity, Eskelin said.

“This is one incident, but this is Alaska and all of Alaska is bear country,” Eskelin said. People hiking on trails should be cautious and prepared for a potential bear encounter, she said.

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