Trappers mauled by bear near Kenai River

A brown bear sow mauled two Anchorage men setting traps near the Kenai River on Saturday night, sending one to an Anchorage hospital with serious injuries, a wildlife official said.

Jeff Selinger, Alaska Department of Fish and Game area wildlife biologist, said the two men, whose names or ages he could not immediately release, were attacked a half mile upstream of the Kenai Keys on the south — or Funny River — side of the river.

Both men were attacked by the bear during the incident but officials from Central Emergency Services said only one man was transported to Central Peninsula Hospital and then flown to Anchorage with serious, but non-life threatening injuries.

Selinger said the two men were separated at the time the sow attacked the first man. Upon hearing the bear and the man’s cries for help, the second man ran to help.

“He yelled at the bear and tried to get him away from the area and it came after him and knocked him down and then went back to the first individual and worked him over some more and then left the area,” Selinger said.

Neither man had a gun or bear spray, Selinger said.

The second man received only bruises from the indecent and returned Monday to retrieve the traps the two set. The man reported he saw cub tracks in the area as well, Selinger said.

It is late in the year for a bear attack, Selinger said, but some brown bears do not den as soon or as heavily as others. He said active bears have been caught in traps in the area well into December.

“Some bears rarely sleep,” he said.

Selinger said Fish and Game has no plans to go searching for the bear.

“The victims even said, ‘That’s the last thing we want you to do, to go out and try to track this bear down because it is obvious we got into its space,’” he said.

It is unclear if the bear was an overly aggressive bear or one just defending its area, Selinger said.

“It is hard to say, a lot of times when this happens the bears will leave the area,” he said. “Not all the time, but often. It is a lot different if it is a single bear or if it is a sow with cubs acting defensively. Most times it is a defensive attack when that occurs, not one necessarily being overly aggressive. However, it can be.”

Selinger advised trappers to be bear aware and carry protection.

“If you are going out there, just be aware,” he said. “It you are putting out bait or setting traps the bears are still active and I would highly suggest having a firearm with you in case you run into a bad situation. At the very least, bear spray.”

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.

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