A man walking a trail in Homer with his two dogs Monday afternoon was mauled by a sow bear with cubs he surprised, then weathered the attack and walked to get help, authorities say.
The man, who was not identified, was hiking the well-used Homestead Trail with his German shepherd mix and another, similar-sized dog. He came up through the woods and around a corner and happened across a female brown bear and two cubs, Alaska Department of Fish and Game assistant area wildlife biologist Jason Herreman said Tuesday.
The man tried to make himself look as big as possible and loudly tried to scare off the bear before he realized she had cubs, Herreman said. He didn’t carry bear spray or a weapon, and wasn’t making noise before the encounter.
The bear charged from about 10 yards, the man told the biologist. He said he wasn’t sure if it was a false charge — he’d been charged by a bear before.
“The bear continued,” Herreman said. “He’s not sure if it head-butted him or it swatted him.”
Knocked off his feet, the man covered the back of his neck and curled up in a fetal position, the biologist said. The bear chomped his arm and left a wound on the back of his neck and bites on his head.
The man watched the bear amble away through the woods, then was able to walk up the trail to a nearby house to get help, Herreman said.
The man is with the U.S. Coast Guard and appeared to be in his mid-20s, according to Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Kirko.
A Homer ambulance and three EMS personnel responded to a potential bear attack call in an area off Diamond Ridge Road just before 4 p.m. Monday, Kirko said. By the time the medics and he arrived, the man was in a vehicle and a medic already on scene was controlling the bleeding.
The man was taken to Southern Peninsula Hospital.
One of the dogs disappeared but was found later, the chief said.
“Both dogs and the individual are doing pretty well,” Kirko said Tuesday.
Herreman said he went out Monday night and posted warning signs along the 3 1/2-mile trail that starts on Baycrest Hill, crosses Diamond Ridge Road, then follows a ridge to the Bridge Creek Reservoir. He returned Tuesday morning to make sure nothing attracted the bears, such as a moose carcass.
The ongoing mild fall means more bear activity.
“The bears are going to be out for a while, especially down here on the Kenai Peninsula with the warm weather we still have,” Herreman said. He recommended residents secure trash, keep birdfeeders down and be aware when hiking.
There are no plans to track down the bear, which was defending her cubs, he said. “We’re just making sure the public knows that there are bears in the area.”