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Bear attacks hiker near lodge

Posted: Friday, July 25, 2008

A brown bear attacked an employee of the Kenai Princess Lodge in Cooper Landing late Wednesday night.

The victim, Abby Sisk, 21, of Ogden, Utah, was returning home after a hike when the bear attacked, coming out of the woods just 25 yards from the lodge, Beth Ipsen spokeswoman for Alaska State Troopers, said. Soldotna dispatch received the 911 call at 10:58 p.m.

The bear, described as a male standing seven to eight feet tall and weighing between 500 and 800 pounds, dragged Sisk for a few feet until Wasilla resident Robert VinZant, a guest at the lodge, scared it away. According to Ipsen, VinZant heard screaming and when he ran to the window, saw the bear on top of Sisk with her head in its jaws.

A Cooper Landing ambulance took Sisk to the Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, Ipsen said. She has since been transferred to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage and underwent emergency surgery to repair major lacerations to her face and head Thursday morning. Sisk was listed in critical conditon.

"It's very alarming because this happened so close to the lodge," Ipsen said. "People take this hike every day."

What prompted the attack is still unknown, Ipsen said.

Sisk is a housekeeper at the lodge. She started her summer job in May.

"She's been having a good time, doing a good job," said Kenai Princess Lodge general manager Dan Michels told The Associated Press. "She's a great employee."

Lodge staff called all guests after the attack, urging them to stay inside and to use shuttles to the main lodge.

The lodge is on 46 secluded acres on the Kenai River. There are no guest rooms at the main lodge, and guest accommodations are spread over the property.

As more guests arrived Thursday, the lodge staff was to urge them to continue to use shuttles or at least walk in groups.

Several trails have been closed, including the one on which Sisk was attacked.

Michels said no one saw any bear cubs in the vicinity and staff members have no idea what provoked the attack.

Ipsen said it was not immediately known if Sisk had bear bells, worn to alert bears that someone is coming, or pepper spray for protection with her when she was attacked.

AP writer Mark Thiessen contributed to this report.

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Mike Nesper can be reached at mike.nesper@peninsulaclarion.com.



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