Man survives bear attack in Hyder

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2003

KETCHIKAN (AP) A man walked away from a brown bear attack near Hyder this week after a hiking companion hit the animal in the head with rocks.

John Rowan and Joel Barrett of Hyder encountered the brown bear sow and two large cubs Wednesday afternoon when they were exploring the west side of Salmon River near Hyder, said Paul Larkin, Hyder unit manager for the Forest Service.

Hyder is about 75 air miles northeast of Ketchikan on the Canadian border.

The two men were making noise as they walked out of a wooded area when they saw the bears about 50 to 100 yards away. The animals were moving toward them rapidly, Larkin said.

The men ran down the drainage toward the river when Rowan tripped and the sow started biting him on the legs. Rowan got up, and the bear turned to Barrett until Rowan ran and tripped a second time.

The bear resumed biting Rowan's legs as Barrett threw sand, gravel and rocks at it. The bear walked away after Barrett hit and stunned it with rocks.

Four people who were exploring the area with them were not aware of the attack until after it happened, Larkin said.

Rowan went to the hospital in Stewart, British Columbia, and then flew to Ketchikan, where he was treated at Ketchikan General Hospital and released, Larkin said.

''It was fortunate the incident turned out the way it did,'' Larkin said.

Rowan, who is in his late 30s, and Barrett, 22, could not be reached for comment.

The two men were exploring a series of beaver ponds that appeared to be ''home base'' for the bear and its cubs, Larkin said.

''They found themselves on the far side of the river. Bears over there don't see people very often,'' Larkin said. ''They're not very tolerant.''

The incident took place about three miles from a Forest Service bear-viewing platform in Hyder.

State wildlife management biologist Boyd Porter said the sow was trying to protect its 2-year-old cubs. He described the bear's behavior as a defensive attack.

''It must have felt threatened, even at the distance they had described,'' Porter said. ''If they had held their ground and stayed together, there probably wouldn't have been an actual contact by the bear. In no circumstances should you run like that.''

The two men did the right thing by pelting the bear with rocks and yelling, Porter said.

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