Bear mauling on JBER the latest in a string of wildlife conflicts this spring
(UPDATE: To read more about the bear encounter, which involved a man from Eagle River, click here)
A man was mauled Saturday, June 24 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson by what was believed to be a brown bear sow with at least one cub acting defensively.
Details were scant Sunday, but according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokesperson Ken Marsh, at least two cyclists were riding near Clunie Lake on the joint military base when one of them got between a sow and her cub — a situation that often results in a bear charge.
“The sow brown bear did what sow brown bears sometimes do, she lashed out defensively,” Marsh said.
Marsh said another cyclist was able to deploy bear spray, which seemed to help drive the bear away.
“Sounds like that second cyclist was able to spray that bear and it ran away,” he said.
Marsh didn’t have any information about the extent of the man’s injuries, only that he was “roughed up a bit” and needed to be taken to a hospital with what were believed to be non life-threatening injuries.
The mauling was the latest in what has been a brutal string of conflicts betwen man and beast involving the Chugiak-Eagle River area this summer. Among the most notable attacks were a May 22 moose attack that left an Eagle River woman hospitalized with severely broken ribs and a brown bear attack June 14 that left three people injured on a trail near the Eagle River Campground.
Black bears are believed to have killed two people in Alaska this summer. One victim was 16-year-old Patrick Cooper, who died on Bird Ridge after completing the youth portion of the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb June 18. That attack led Fish and Game to shoot four black bears in the area south of Anchorage, including one believed to be the bear that attacked Cooper.
On June 19, an Anchorage woman who grew up in Eagle River died after she was mauled by a black bear near the Pogo Mine in Interior Alaska. According to Fish and Game, two employees of the mine were attacked while working in the field. One of them, 27-year-old Erin Johnson, was killed. Johnson was a Chugiak High School grad who skied competitively for the school and for Team Alaska as a member of the Junior Olympic Nordic Ski Team. A memorial fund has been set up to honorJohnson, who is survived by her husband, Abe Schmidt, and her parents, Barb and Steve Johnson.
Experts advise making noise and carrying a deterrent like bear spray or a firearm while traveling in bear country, which in Alaska is almost everywhere.
For more bear safety tips, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s online “The Essentials for Traveling in Alaska’s Bear Country.”