Jogger mauled by bear

Sow protecting cubs attacks one, chases another

Posted: Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A brown bear with cubs mauled a jogger near Kenai National Wildlife Refuge headquarters after he and his running companion spooked the sow on Centennial Trail on Tuesday morning.

The 33-year-old refuge fire-crew employee, suffered lacerations to his shoulders, back and arm, but did not sustain life-threatening injuries.

“He had been clawed, obviously, on the back once and also looked like he’d been bit on the arm,” Refuge Manager Robin West said.

The injuries did not appear serious, said West, who spoke briefly with the victim before Central Emergency Services took him to Central Peninsula General Hospital in Soldotna for his injuries. West said he did not wish to reveal the victim’s identity without first receiving the victim’s consent.

“He walked himself up the trail and put himself on the ambulance,” he said.

The victim, who was running with a second refuge employee, was mauled about one mile down the trail from the headquarters parking lot, but managed to walk back to the parking lot by the time the incident was reported and medics were on the scene.

West said judging by the man’s injuries and evidence found at the scene of the attack, the bear appears to have been on the defensive rather than the offensive.

“By the looks of the situation, it was just a second or two encounter,” he said.

“You can see claw marks, a little scuffle there where you can see kind of a divergence on the trail and then running away.”

In a follow up conversation with the runners, West said they said they encountered the sow and her cubs at close range when she knocked down the victim and then darted between the runners and her cubs a couple of times before finally turning to leave.

“Sound’s like he was knocked down twice,” West said of the victim. “That’s when he decided he’d better just stay put.”

Once the victim remained quiet and still, the sow turned its attention to the second runner, chasing him up the trail as he ran back to refuge headquarters to find help, West said.

“She kind of ran after the other guy a little bit, never caught up to him and then turned, got her cubs and took off,” he said.

West said when he last talked to the runners, the victim was still at CPGH.

“It sounds like he’s going in for surgery, but it’s mostly just to clean out some puncture wounds,” he said.

The runners had used the trail for physical training many times before without having encountered any bear problems, and while running the trail Tuesday, occasionally called out to alert possible bears, West said.

However, dense brush along the trail makes it easy to spook a wild animal while running, even while making extra noise, he said.

West said this is the first bear mauling to have occurred in the headquarters area.

A bear once chased a jogger on Ski Hill Road in front of the headquarters, but a refuge employee drove the bear off with a pickup and diverted an attack, he said.

As a safety precaution, the refuge plans to close the Centennial and nearby Keen-eye Trail for a couple of days.

But West recommended against jogging on any trail or dirt roads at any time.

“It’s just not a good idea,” he said. “Two reasons: one you can kind of entice a bear to chase you ... . We don’t really understand the principle, but in some cases running by can entice a chase.

The other thing is you can just get up on an animal real quick and surprise them up close. Neither are good things.”

Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife technician Larry Lewis said the department has no plans to track and capture the bear.

“There’s really no reason to,” he said. “From what we can see, it doesn’t seem to be any type of predatory behavior on the animal’s part.

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