Alaska News

Wildlife officials mull hunt for bear in Kenai Peninsula mauling

A Sunday bear attack that sent a Kenai Peninsula man to a Seattle hospital is under investigation by state and federal authorities, with a final decision pending on whether to find and kill the bear.

Danny High, 62, of Funny River was in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center after an attack near Mile 11 of Funny River Road that initially sent him to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters said troopers hadn't yet released further information about the attack on High, who was medevacked by a LifeMed air ambulance after troopers responded to initial reports of the mauling at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

"(H)e was alone at the time of the attack," Peters wrote in an email Monday.

High called 911 himself shortly after the attack, which occurred as he was walking his dog in the area.

"He called 911 to report that he'd been injured in a bear mauling," Central Emergency Services Capt. Terry Bookey told the Associated Press.

Cathie Harms, a spokeswoman with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said Fish and Game staff were working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether the mauling took place in the nearby Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. A DNA analysis was also in progress to identify the bear that attacked High as a black or grizzly.

According to Harms, the area in which High was attacked wasn't known for bear activity or maulings. A biologist with the department was in the field Monday to learn more about the incident.

"There are a lot of bears on the Kenai Peninsula and there's a lot of people on the Kenai Peninsula, and that means there's a lot of chances for bears and people to interact," Harms said.

Fish and Game encourages people to carry bear spray and practice bear safety, including making noise during hikes, avoiding hiking on bear trails and not feeding animals in the field.

"This is not something you can guarantee will never happen," Harms said. "You can take steps to minimize the chances of an attack, but you can't ensure that this will never happen."

Fish and Game officials haven't decided whether to find and kill the bear that attacked High, pending an interview with him to discuss what happened. The decision depends in large part on whether the attack is determined to be an attempt by the bear to defend an animal kill site or cubs, or a "predacious" attack by a bear acclimatized to humans and unafraid of them.

Although troopers initially said that High wasn't armed or carrying bear spray at the time of the attack, Harms withheld judgment Monday on whether that was true -- or whether High's actions contributed to the attack.

"He could have been doing everything correctly and something went wrong," Harms said.

The Associated Press contributed information to this story.