Tom Patmor appreciates the role his dog Harvey played in preventing further damage during an encounter the two had with a brown bear several yards from his home in Clam Gulch earlier this year.
Photos by M. Scott Moon
It's been six months since Tom Patmor of Clam Gulch was bitten on the hand by bear while walking to the post office, and while his wounds have almost completely healed, his memories of that day have not faded.
"I'm still going to physical therapy, but my hand is getting better every day," he said.
Patmor had the encounter with a large brown bear sow defending her two young cubs in June while walking down Blueberry Ave., with his dog Harvey, on his way to check for mail at the Clam Gulch Post Office. He was within 50 yards of the Sterling Highway when the incident occurred.
"She ran straight at me and I knew it wasn't a bluff charge so I tried to punch her in the nose, but she bit down on my wrist and broke it," he said afterward from the hospital.
The bear also knocked Patmor over and scratched his chest, but he said he was lucky in two ways his dog defended him and the attack happened so close to the highway that passing motorists could see the events unfolding.
A good Samaritan pulled over within seconds to help him, and the women wrapped towels around the puncture wounds in his hand and called an ambulance.
At Central Peninsula Hospital, X-rays revealed the bruin bite to Patmor's hand had fractured the bones of his wrist, and also caused tendon damage. Despite these injuries, Patmor said his recovery has gone well.
"The doctors did a good job resetting my wrist, and the scratches on my back and shoulder healed. I didn't get any infections at all," he said.
Patmor said his physical therapy is also nearly complete.
"It still hurts when I make a fist, but the physical therapy is helping make it better. The doctor told me I've got about another month and then I should be back to 100 percent," he said.
Patmor said there are other ways his life has changed after the event. He now brings more than just his dog with him while walking to the post office.
"I carry my .44 whenever I go anywhere now," he said.
A sign on a power pole near Patmor's home marks the location of the encounter.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Patmor said carrying the pistol is a result of not just the bear bite, but also because over the past few years he has been charged by a moose near his home and chased by a rabid fox while working on the North Slope.
"I figured if I'm going to keep being attacked by animals, I've got to do something to protect myself," he said.
Patmor said he also has taken other actions.
"In 20 years, I've hardly ever seen bears around my house, but I saw five browns and blacks this past summer. So, I wrote the governor and asked her to change the hunting regulations for brown bears, and make them more like the regs for black bears," he said.
Patmor said the governor wrote back and said she would pass his information on to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
As to what, other than packing heat, Patmor will do differently next year summer, he said he will attempt to be much more perceptive about his surroundings.
"I'll look out the windows of my home before going out and will look for bears more when outdoors. I'm not afraid of bears now, I'm just more aware of them," he said.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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