A 39-year-old man is in stable condition with a new collection of cuts and puncture wounds, but he’s lucky to be alive after he was mauled by a grizzly bear sow and her two cubs inside of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, Justin Long was looking for wild sheep when he and a hunting partner decided to split up and cover more ground.
Long was about 11 miles downstream from the nearest village and hiking along a drainage of the Chisana River when he stumbled upon the bear in close proximity.
A spokeswoman for the park said the startled bear charged him from about 15-yards and closed the distance so quickly he barely had time to react.
“He dropped his pack and tried to get his rifle ready to shoot but was unable to do so.”
The bear knocked him to the ground and began mauling him, but he was able to fire off two shots during the chaos. It was enough to scare the bear off of him and alert his partner that he needed help.
He quickly dug into his first aid kit and hit the SOS button on his emergency satellite device to call for help.
A rescue squadron from the Alaska Air National Guard responded quickly and sent a Pave Hawk Helicopter to his coordinates to administer treatment and airlift him out of the wilderness.
Both he and his hunting partner were flown to Anchorage from there.
Park officials say there is no plans to hunt down the bear that attacked him, as its believed the bear was acting naturally in defense of her cubs and not unusually aggressive or a threat to humans.
“Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”
Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve encompasses more than 20,000 square miles of Alaskan wilderness. It is the largest single entity managed by the National Park Service.
This is the first bear attack at Wrangell-St. Elias this year, however last year a hunter was killed by a grizzly bear that attacked him while he was field dressing a moose.
This is the most dangerous time of the yearfor hunters to be attacked by bears, as their exploits in the wild frequently put them in close contact with hungry bears locked in on food as they try to fatten up for the winter.
It’s extremely important that all hunters remain vigilant and “bear aware” while out in the field, especially in grizzly bear country.
Additional protection like bear spray or a pistol is also recommended for people venturing into bear country to hunt.