Woman suffers bites, scratches in bear attack

Posted: Friday, July 12, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Oregon woman escaped with bite and claw wounds Wednesday after a mauling by a black bear that stalked her for more than an hour along a trail in Southeast Alaska.

Kristy L. Abbott, 27, of Harrisburg, Ore., was treated for scrapes and puncture wounds on the back of her legs at Petersburg Medical Center and was released.

Now she's back at work on American Safari Cruises, told to stay off her feet for a few days, according to her father, Ralph Abbott, speaking from his home in Harrisburg.

''We are really proud of her, that she's made it through. You'd think after 15 or 20 minutes you'd lose energy, but Kristy, she just kept after it,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News. ''I think that she stayed mentally tough. That's the way she got through it.''

Kristy Abbott could not be reached for comment.

Ralph Abbott described his daughter as adventuresome and athletic, a former Marine who likes to sea kayak and hike.

Kristy Abbott told troopers that she was jogging on Petersburg Mountain Trail about 5 p.m. when she saw a black bear ahead.

Abbott stopped and sounded her portable air horn. That's when the bear charged.

What followed were a harrowing brawl and chase, which Abbott described to her father later that night.

''She said she was at it for an hour and a half, and she traded blows with it just straight up,'' Ralph Abbott said. ''She would keep it away with a stick as best she could. She said she somehow got a tree between the two of them, and for 15 minutes or so, she'd go one way and it would go the other.''

He said his daughter did not turn her back on the gaunt, thin animal. She fought hard and edged back toward the trail head at Kupreanof State Dock.

The confrontation ended when Kristy Abbott walloped the bear over the head with a large stick. She might have hit it in the eye, she told her dad. The bear lumbered away.

Kristy Abbott was taken to Petersburg Medical Center where she was treated and released.

Southeast Alaska is densely populated with black bears, said John Hechtel, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Similar black bear attacks are rare but are not unheard of, he said.

Black bears are typically unaggressive and shy around humans. But in rare cases, black bears become single-minded predators and target people. They can attack and chase tirelessly, unruffled by loud noises or pepper-based bear spray, encouraged by someone who runs away or plays dead.

''What you have to do is fend it off is try to fight back with all you've got, make yourself seem as big as possible, use a chunk of wood, a rock, whatever you can and concentrate your attack on the bear's face and nose,'' Hechtel said. ''It sounds like this woman did the right thing.''

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