- Jun 19, 2017 at 7:04 am #3473984
I noticed more parked vehicles there than usual as I drove by yesterday morning, but had no idea why.Jun 19, 2017 at 8:31 am #3474003
Worst nightmare.Jun 19, 2017 at 6:18 pm #3474112
Running in areas inhabited by apex predators is a bad idea. Be in harmony with your environment. Mountain bikers should also take note. Not saying don’t do it. Just be aware of what the potential consequences are.Jun 19, 2017 at 9:25 pm #3474155
Never know what lurks around a bend in the trail. A friend of mine in Washington state came upon the scene of a hiker gored by a goat. Hiker bled to death.Jun 20, 2017 at 8:31 am #3474194
John S.BPL Member
@jshannJun 21, 2017 at 11:07 am #3474429
And the next day:
Another person killed (different situation – collecting geologic samples), also by a black bear.
Over the last century, Alaska has averaged about one fatal bear attack every two years, so two in two days really stands out. And yet could be coincidence. If looking for a reason, I’d start with our having had 3 non-winters in a row and then 2016-2017 was a traditional winter with cold temps and decent snow fall. So maybe the bears had high survival rates for several years and are now more stressed coming out of hibernation?Jun 22, 2017 at 10:52 am #3474734
Buck NelsonBPL Member
There have been so few fatal black bear attacks I doubt it’s possible to come up with any meaningful pattern.
I posted the following on another forum:
It had been over 4 years since any bear: grizz/polar/black, killed anyone in Alaska. In that time about 17,000 Alaskans died of other causes.
There are about 100,000 black bears in Alaska. On average, there are at least 10 years between each incident in which a black bear kills someone here. So that would make the “murder rate” for black bears less than 1:1,000,000 bear years.
Humans murder someone in Alaska at about 1:18,000 per year, making humans about 55 times more dangerous [per capita] than black bears.
18,000 vs 1,000,000.
According to Wikipedia there have been about 20 grizzly-human fatalities in recorded Alaska history. If that’s over 100 years, that’s .2 people a year for about 30,000 Alaska grizzlies. So that would make the murder rate for grizzlies about 1:150,000. Almost ten times lower of a “murder” rate than humans.
I think too often people look at the numerator without looking at the denominator. Without a hard look at both it’s hard to assess what the risk is.
Jun 22, 2017 at 11:14 am #3474744
- This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Buck Nelson.
Ethan A.BPL Member
@mountainwalkerLocale: SF Bay Area & New England
Buck thank you very much for sharing those stats and estimates which really help bring things into perspective. It may be irrational but it’s natural for people to get scared after such incidents.
My wife and I weren’t harmed but were charged by a black bear mom with cubs we unintentionally surprised next to a food source at night in the White Mountains of NH (great timing). I read similar stats about the rarity of attack and injury afterward.Jun 22, 2017 at 11:14 pm #3474941
Buck: My riff on bear hazards as long been,
There is 1/2 a fatal bear attack each year in Alaska (not this year, obviously, but averaged over recent decades). Highest, per capita, in the nation. Deaths due to drunk driving are 43 per year. Also very high per capita. You’re 86 times more likely to be done in by booze or a drunk than by a bear. Getting to the trailhead is far more dangerous than the hike itself.
So the whole, “.357? .44? Is any handgun big enough? (no.) 300 Win-mag, .338 or 12-gauge with slugs?” debate could be shortened to, “Skip the gun, bring a breath-a-lyzer”.Jun 22, 2017 at 11:23 pm #3474943
“So the whole, “.357? .44? Is any handgun big enough? (no.) 300 Win-mag, .338 or 12-gauge with slugs?” debate could be shortened to, “Skip the gun, bring a breath-a-lyzer”.”
ROFFL!!Jun 23, 2017 at 9:59 am #3475008
Kevin BBPL Member
@newmexikevLocale: Western New Mexico, USA
Early accounts of the attack on the geologists surprise me in that the bear ran off initially when sprayed but returned to attack the 2 workers despite a can of spray with each person.Jun 23, 2017 at 2:36 pm #3475051
Tipi WalterBPL Member
I don’t know why bear encounters and/or deaths come up so much on backpacking sites. It’s like an obsession.
Why not post car wreck injuries or deaths when driving to a trailhead? Must be thousands of these yearly.
Jun 23, 2017 at 3:33 pm #3475053
- This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Tipi Walter.
Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
One of the questions I get asked all the time (especially this year going back to Alaska) is “Do you carry a gun?” everyone seems surprised when I don’t. I explain that I am much more likely to die in a car wreck driving to the trailhead (probably dying in a plane crash too) than I am to die by animal attack.
I was false charged by a black bear in GSMNP in ~2008. It was all so quick that it wouldn’t have mattered if I had a gun holstered on my side or bearspray on my shoulder strap, I know I couldn’t have gotten it out and put down an accurate shot or spray before the bear would have gotten to me. I do carry bear spray in Alaska, but that is the only place, and I am sure that is just a placebo to make me feel better.Jun 23, 2017 at 4:07 pm #3475054
Apparently I’m sexist and ageist, because while I felt bad for both victims, especially the teenage runner, I figured (wanted to think?) the geologist working for the mine was a crusty old guy who’d lived a long life. Nope.
Initial reports suggest that while one blast of pepper spray wasn’t enough to save the first geologist, the next two may have saved the other geologist.
I’ve been anti-gun for bears for a long time (you can’t eat it, wear it, get shelter from it, a gun big enough to make a difference weighs 7+ pounds, pepper spray gives you better odds and can’t be used against you fatally). But I have to admit that certainly for the runner who had time to text that he was being chased/stalked and maybe for the geologists, a modest handgun (9mm, say) might have made the difference. In part because it wasn’t a surprise / over-in-a-flash encounter and because black bears, being more human-sized, don’t require such large caliber guns.
And, yeah, while something about these events fascinates us, statistically they are so rare as to not warrant changing our behavior (as we should about driving, weather, hypothermia, boating, etc hazards).
Jun 24, 2017 at 10:48 pm #3475269
- This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by David Thomas.
This article was posted today- they are stating that in predatory attacks, bear spray is not effective, or not very effective. Link https://craigmedred.news/2017/06/22/bear-ignored-spray/Jun 24, 2017 at 10:48 pm #3475270
I tried to cut and paste the article but BPL kept blocking me from doing it. Weird.Jun 25, 2017 at 4:18 am #3475289
John S.BPL Member
Bear ignored spray
By craigmedred on June 22, 2017
Updated on June 23 to include other bear spray failures
A black bear that killed a 27-year-old Anchorage woman in central Alaska on Monday appears to have hunted down the woman and a colleague while they were conducting environmental surveys for the Pogo Mine. The bear jumped one of the women from behind before she had any chance react, and then moved on to the woman’s colleague, their employer, himself a wildlife biologist, said Thursday. An attempt to drive the bear off with pepper spray failed. The efficacy of pepper spray has been questioned in other cases involving predatory black bears. Dead is 27-year-old Erin Johnson, a lifelong Alaskan who grew up in Anchorage and celebrated her wedding only two weeks ago. Injured was 38-year-old Ellen Trainor of Fairbanks. Both had spent countless hours in the Alaska wilderness and were well familiar with bears. They were working in brushy terrain in the Tanana uplands when attacked, said Steve Murphy, the president of Alaska Biological Research said Thursday. ABR is a small, environmental consulting firm that started in Fairbanks before adding an office in Anchorage. ABR staff were in shock over a seemingly inexplicable incident. “Both of them were very experienced outdoor people,” Murphy said, but the experience could not save them from a predatory black bear.
“This bear approached them from behind and took Ellen Trainor down,” he said. “Things get a little murky after that.” Trainor didn’t sense the bear until it was within 10 feet, and she had no time to react. Murphy thinks her backpack, which the bear chewed on, might have saved her. With Trainor down, the bear moved on to Johnson as Trainor struggled to get a can of bear spray out of a holster on the pack’s waist band. She succeeded in doing that, but the spray was of limited use, Murphy said. “Ellen was able to spray the bear twice,” Murphy said, “but the bear came back….We’re trying to understand this.” There has been some past research indicating that black bears can rather quickly recover from being sprayed. “I don’t know why,” Stephen Herrero, the dean of bear research said Thursday evening, “but it showed up in the data.” As in this case, Herrero said, the spray initially drove bears off, but they came back. This is, however, the first time a fatality has been associated with the failure of bear spray.
Harrowing Canadian story
A Canadian biologist working in remote Ontario in June 2013 reported he was able to keep a black bear at bay by spraying it in the face several times, but the bear persisted in trying to take him down. Rob Foster “said the bear charged at him repeatedly — even after he used his bear spray,” the CBC reported at the time. “We were like two feet away [at one point],” Foster told CBC. “He’d stick his head out one side of the jack pine, and I’d threaten to spray and he’d stick his head on the other side of the tree. It was almost comical, if the stakes hadn’t been so high.” Foster said he felt lucky to get out of the encounter alive. Brad Benter, an Alaska biologist who ironically happened to be at the scene of a separate predatory bear attack only a day before the Pogo incident, said “I’ve sprayed two different black bears at close range, both times with little to no reaction- once in the field on a weather port platform above the bear, with safe retreat, once from a deck of a house, also with safe retreat. I believe it is better than nothing, but I also don’t count on it working.” Foster’s experience was similar to Benter’s. Foster now teaches bear safety in Ontario and says he was lucky to have the spray with him despite its limited effectiveness. “I sprayed (the bear) four times,” he said in a Friday telephone interview. “The first time I sprayed him at maybe two and a half meters (about 8 feet). I wanted to make sure I got him good.” The bear ran off, but shortly came back, Foster said. It would keep running off and coming back for 45 minutes.
Attacking a bear
Foster, who has worked around both black and grizzly bears in the Yukon Territory, Canada, and lions in Africa, said he had no doubt the black bear had decided the man was prey and was trying to set him up for a kill. The bear was constantly circling to get behind and attack him from the rear as the Pogo-area bear attacked Trainor, and as another bear in the Pogo-area attacked Cynthia Dusel Bacon not far away in the 1970s. “The second time I sprayed him was at maybe two meters,” Foster said. Upon being sprayed, the bear would quickly whirl and run away, a reaction not much different from that reported by others who’ve swatting black bear with sticks or thrown rocks at them in similar situations. When the bear turned, Foster said, he’d stop spraying, recognizing shooting spray at a bear’s ass was a waste of spray he might need later. “He constantly tried to circle me and get me from behind,” said the biologist, who was lucky to have had a GPS running that gave him a track back to his truck. He eventually decided that the best way out of the mess was to manuever the bear into a position where every time the man attacked the bear – and Foster said he repeatedly went at the bear screaming and hollering to make it clear he wasn’t going down easy – the man would be moving a little closer to his truck. As this dance of predator and prey continued, Foster said, the bear spray became effective in that he could sometimes push the bear back by charging at it – a bold move – and bringing the can up as if he was going to spray. At one point, Foster paused to take photos of the bear. It seems a little crazy now, he admitted, but “I wanted to document this in case he took me down.” Asked what he thought would have happened if he hadn’t aggressively and repeatedly gone at the bear screaming, sometimes waving his arm and threatening it with that can of spray, Foster had a simple answer: “We wouldn’t be having this conversation today. It was a flat-out predatory attack.”
A frustrated predator
Eventually, Foster said, he worked the bear out of an alder thicket and into a patch of woods. “I was driving him toward my truck,” the biologist said. “He only once made a sound. He gave one woof. He was kind of frustrated.” At one point in the woods, he and the bear played that peek-a-boo game around a tree. Foster said he could see then that one of the bear’s eyes was swollen shut, an apparent reaction to the powerful irritating powers of the pepper spray. But despite this, the bear continued to press the attack. As the bear and man ducked around trees in the woods, Foster sprayed the animal for the fourth time at a distance of only about four feet. “He seemed to lose a little enthusiasm after that,” the biologist said, and after 45 minutes, “he kind of lost interest.” That is common predatory behavior. Predators will test and test and test before deciding the prey is going to be too difficult to kill and then abandon the effort. Foster said he still feels lucky to be alive. “It was pretty intense,” he said, but he lived. Twice in Alaska in two days, others were not as lucky.
Correction: This story was corrected on June 23 to reflect the bear spray was in a hoslter on a waist band and not in a backpack.Jun 27, 2017 at 7:21 am #3475691
Mike MBPL Member
when I worked in the Bob Marshall (and Great Bear) I had dozens and dozens of “encounters” with grizzlies w/ all ending in the bear(s) running off.
The only bad bear encounter I had was with a predatory black bear (I learned of this behavior years later)- not aggressive, not spooked, not defensive- simply very calculating- sizing me up for a meal. He forced me to leave a lake I had planned on camping at- thinking it was a territorial issue I was glad to move on. Unfortunately he fell in behind, sometimes close enough that I would lob a rock (this was pre bear spray days)- this went on for at least a mile before he lost interest. Needless to say it wasn’t a good nights sleep that night :)
Almost always boars, almost always large and older bears.
Fortunately it’s a very rare occurrence, but it does happen as evidenced above.Jun 27, 2017 at 7:37 am #3475694
“Almost always boars, almost always large and older bears.”
Maybe because they’ve lost a little speed/strength and also the ability to compete with younger studs for prime foraging territory? I know they’re omnivores, but that includes meat. This is very often the case with tigers in India when they are involved in attacks on humans, and I’m wondering if maybe the same dynamic is at work with bears.Jun 27, 2017 at 10:28 am #3475731
On Saturday morning, James Fredrick and his friend Alex Ippoliti were biking down a well-used gravel road on military land near Clunie Lake in Eagle River when they heard a rustling in the bushes.
The two friends were already hyper-aware after two fatal, predatory black bear attacks last week that have set Alaskans on edge.
“With all the things that had been going on, I made sure I had my bear bell on and bear spray with me,” said Ippoliti, who lives in Eagle River.
What happened next came so fast that Fredrick, who lives in Anchorage, is still turning it over in his mind from the hospital bed where he is recovering from being attacked by a brown bear. It was one of two brown bear maulings in Southcentral Alaska Saturday.
Fredrick says his friend saved his life.
Shortly after they heard the rustling sound, a brown bear emerged from the woods and ran “20-30 yards” toward them, Ippoliti said. Suddenly, the bear was on Fredrick, pulling him from his bike.
“I immediately just started yelling ‘help,’ ” Fredrick said in a phone interview from his hospital bed Sunday. “I can’t exaggerate how fast this was. I don’t think it lasted more than 7 or 8 seconds.”
While the bear was biting and clawing him, Fredrick remembers thinking that he should try to get the bike between himself and the animal.
Ippoliti was able to get bear spray out, he said.
When the bear left Fredrick and turned toward him, Ippoliti “emptied an entire tank” of spray on it, driving it back into the woods.
Fredrick said he didn’t have bear spray with him, and will be forever thankful his friend did and was able to use it.
“Alex straight up saved my life,” Fredrick said Sunday. “I’d be dead right now without Alex.”
Next, Ippoliti took his shirt off “for a tourniquet and asked me to hold it on my neck while he stood there, yelling at the bear,” Fredrick said.
It wasn’t until after the bear had gone that the men noticed a cub in the tree above. They had not seen it before the attack, Ippoliti said.
After that things get fuzzy for Fredrick.
“I was losing a lot of blood,” he said.
The two walked away from the site of the attack, maybe about a quarter of a mile down the road, both said. They called for help and were picked up by medics.
Fredrick said he sustained major lacerations to his neck and lost part of his bicep muscle in the attack. A doctor told him the neck wound was so close to his carotid artery that it was visible from the wound itself, he said. He also had to get stitches on his eyebrow and nose.
Fredrick says the fatal maulings of last week were heavy on his mind even before Saturday. He never imagined this summer’s succession of bear attacks would include him, but he doesn’t attribute it to anything other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I just completely think it’s coincidence. I can’t in any way rack it up to anything else.”
Fredrick, who is being treated at Providence Alaska Medical Center, said that he’s recovering from the shock of the event.
“In the emergency room, I was like, I’ll never be able to go in the woods again,” he said.
Just one day later, he doesn’t think that’s true.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh said biologists are investigating the mauling. Based on initial information, they don’t consider it a predatory attack but a “defensive attack” by a brown bear.
“It sounds like the sow did what brown bears often do when they perceive a threat,” he said.
2 brown bear attacks in 1 day
The second attack happened Saturday evening, on a road outside of Hope, a small Turnagain Arm community. Troopers were called to a reported bear attack at 11:40 p.m., according to an online dispatch posted by the agency Sunday.
Joshua Brekken, 45, was “walking on Palmer Creek Road when he came across a sow brown bear and cub,” troopers wrote.
Palmer Creek Road is a 12-mile gravel road that climbs from the Hope highway area near Turnagain Arm to a high valley.
Brekken was “getting some firewood for his cabin out in the area,” Marsh said. “He and his dog were walking on a trail out back of a cabin when he looked up and saw a brown bear in front of him.”
The bear was about 30 yards away when it charged, troopers wrote. The man tried to climb a tree, but the bear “swatted him out of the tree and injured him” before taking off into the woods with the cub, according to troopers.
Brekken sustained “minor injuries” and went to the hospital on his own, troopers wrote.
Marsh said the two bear attacks this weekend differ in important ways from the fatal maulings of a young runner and a biologist working at a remote mine last week.Jun 27, 2017 at 10:36 am #3475734
Here’s a link to the above quote:
Bear Spray worked.Jun 27, 2017 at 10:54 am #3475740
Ethan A.BPL Member
@mountainwalkerLocale: SF Bay Area & New England
It’s good to hear that Bear Spray worked in that latest attack. Amazing how quickly a bear can move and inflict serious damage.
“Almost always boars, almost always large and older bears.”
Mike and Tom, there is something to that and Tom as you noted that’s what I’ve read and heard about the tigers which attack humans in India. We’re not their preferred prey, but we’re much slower than the animals they typically hunt. The film Grizzly Man makes a similar point about older bears less equipped to successfully hunt.Jun 27, 2017 at 4:10 pm #3475817
“Bear spray worked.”
Yes, because the attack in that instance was defensive (mom defending cubs). It’s predatory attacks where experts are saying bear spray is less effective or not effective.Jun 27, 2017 at 5:32 pm #3475843
.44 magnum bear spray, stainless steel. I’m holding off for the Titanium version ;-)Jul 2, 2017 at 3:35 am #3476655
Ito JakuchuBPL Member
Shotgun worked for this boy. But mostly because he didn’t have his on a sling:
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