Brown bear mauls Kasilof teen

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) A Kasilof teenager is recovering from a broken hand, puncture wounds and gashes after he was mauled by a brown bear Sunday.

I thought I was going to die, pretty much,'' said Cody Williams, 17, from his home.

Williams told the Anchorage Daily News he was attacked by a brown bear while hunting black bear near Tustumena Lake on the Kenai Peninsula.

He said he could hear the bear clawing and chewing him before the pain registered.

I heard chomping or jaws or just the sound of it, the teeth (raking) the skull. It's kind of weird. It's like you can hear through the skull,'' he said.

He and a friend, Matt Weaver, both juniors at Skyview High School in Soldotna, had spent Saturday night at a public use cabin in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Williams said he has years of exploring the outdoors in Montana and now Alaska, where his family runs the Crooked Creek RV Park. But he said he mainly hunted deer and small critters.'' He had never killed a bear.

Sunday morning, the teenagers scouted around for moose antlers, found a few, got lost around a swamp, and made their way back to the lake. They hooked up with an adult friend of Weaver's family that afternoon to hunt black bear, which are in season in the refuge.

The trio staked out a meadow on the lake's north side, about 1.5 miles west of Bear Creek. They climbed trees to get a better look. It was raining, so after a while Williams climbed down from his cottonwood. He intended to take shelter under a nearby spruce tree.

As an airplane flew over low, Weaver spotted a brown bear that stood up, said Rob Barto, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer who is investigating the mauling.

It was a sow with two cubs, and they were walking toward Weaver. He made some grunting sounds to scare them.

They ambled off and they ambled off right toward where Cody was sitting,'' Barto said.

Williams said he could hear the bears rustling around. He readied his .30-06-caliber rifle. One of the cubs charged him, Williams said. He fired a single shot from about 10 yards away. It went through the cub's right front shoulder and killed the bear, a 2-year-old female, Barto said.

The sow kept coming.

Williams started backing up, slowly at first. He wanted to get up the cottonwood tree. From about 10 yards away, he took off running for it.

From his perch, Weaver took in the danger.

He saw Cody running down the hill as fast as he could and the brown bear behind him,'' Barto said.

Williams said he was trying to climb up the tree when the sow got to him.

She grabs me and throws me down on the ground. She was on me,'' Williams said. The bear gnawed and clawed at his hand, his arm, his legs and his face. He covered his neck and head with his hands.

Weaver fired a shot over the bear and it released Williams, who shouted at Weaver to keep shooting, that he was bit, Barto said.

The sow turned back toward Williams. He had dropped his rifle but now had his .44-caliber revolver out. He unloaded all six shots at the brown bear, which lumbered away.

Williams reloaded as he walked toward Weaver. A bone was protruding from his hand, so he poked it back into place. Nothing hurt too bad, yet, he said. The adult with them, Scott Oldenburg, had gotten to the teens by then and called 911 on a cell phone. He loaded Williams into his skiff and got him to the dock, where paramedics were waiting.

Oldenburg told Barto that all he heard was the one shot, the blood curdling scream and the six quick shots.''

Williams was treated at Central Peninsula General Hospital. He needed 38 staples to close the wound in his head. His left hand still needs to be seen by a specialist. He suffered deep puncture wounds to his legs and left arm, but he'll be fine, his father said.

The sow may survive, too. Barto and others did a foot search and fly overs in a plane and a helicopter. They saw no blood or any trace of the bear.

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