A 12-year-old Seward boy was attacked by a brown bear while walking to school this morning.
According to Alaska State Wildlife Enforcement Trooper Marc Cloward, the boy was walking to the bus stop early Tuesday morning.
Although it was dark, when he heard a noise, he wasn’t too concerned.
“He’s thinking that the sound he’s hearing is rain and snow falling off the trees,” Cloward said.
It wasn’t, though.
“He looks over and sees a sow and cubs and he’s already too close,” Cloward said.
The boy began to back away, but the sow growled and huffed and rushed, knocking him to the ground.
The boy screamed and wiggled, until he remembered what he had been told to do in case of a bear attack.
So he made himself go limp. He played dead as the bear ripped and bit at the backback he wore across his back.
According to Cloward’s estimates, the backpack absorbed the brunt of the attack.
The boy was taken to Providence Seward Medical Center, where he was examined and released to the care of his parents, according to Alaska State Troopers.
“I was impressed by how mature he was,” Cloward said. “He said to me during the interview, ‘I think she was just as scared as I was. She just wanted to get her cubs and get out of there.’”
The attack happened on Bear Lake Road near the fish weir.
“It’s kind of a bear thoroughfare there,” Cloward said. “They’re passing through, feeding and making a living.”
Cloward tracked the bear about a half mile toward the mountains. He’s unsure if it will return to the area.
If it does, it will have to be dispatched, according to Soldotna Fish & Game biologist Jeff Selinger.
“If a bear makes contact and we can identify it as the bear, it’s time to put that bear down,” he said.
Alaska Fish and Game Soldotna wildlife technician Larry Lewis was a little more forceful.
“The bear stepped over the line,” he said. “It’s a public safety issue now. People come first.”
If the bear is dispatched, the cubs will be also, since placement could not be found.
Low light and late hibernation
According to Selinger, the majority of documented bear attacks happen in low light conditions.
“I think a lot of it has to do with visibility, from both the bear’s and person’s aspect,” he said, adding that the potential for a bear encounter can happen at any time, regardless of lighting.
This time of year is also what he called the fringe season, when some bears have already gone into their dens while others choose to linger a bit longer.
“It’s just like people, there’s individual differences among bears,” he said.
One of the prompts behind the delay is a readily available food supply.
“That could be berries, salmon carcasses or human related,” he said.
All bears don’t hibernate for the whole winter, either.
“Some will sleep for a little bit and then wake up,” he said. “We’ve seen bear activity in every month of the year.”
For the most part, though, bears tend to become more lethargic as they prepare to den.
“They’re fat, they’re happy, they don’t have to be out intently searching for food. Life is just sort of puddling along for them,” he said.
Garbage away, and walk your kids to school
Alaska Fish and Game Soldotna wildlife technician Larry Lewis recommends parents walk or drive their children to and from the bus stop and school this time of year.
“In the dark, it’s very easy for a child to walk into wildlife situations,” he said.
According to Lewis, there’s been a lot of bear activity around the peninsula lately, most dealing with easily accessible food sources around homes.
“I can tell you we are having an inordinate amount of problems with garbage bears,” he said. “I can’t say there’s any correlation to what happened in Seward, but bears usually move through neighborhoods looking for easy food sources.”
At the same time, he added, the Seward situation played out more like a defensive attack: The sow attacked and and it perceived no threat, it retreated.
“The best thing to do when in a brown bear attack is to play dead and the boy did just that. He played limp.”
He also showed a maturity well beyond his years.
“He conducted himself in a manner that didn’t make the situation worse,” Cloward said. “To be able to keep his composure like that is amazing.”
via The Seward Phoenix LOG – Bear attacks boy walking to bus stop.