FAIRBANKS — A 43-year-old professor says she fought off a grizzly bear that stalked her and her nieces by throwing everything she had at it — including a package of macaroni and cheese.
Alyson Jones-Robinson said they encountered the aggressive grizzly while hiking Thursday at Chena River State Recreation Area, east of Fairbanks. She said it wasn’t especially big — perhaps a 2- or 3-year-old that weighed between 100 and 200 pounds — but it was not afraid of them or her dog.
“It was terrifying. On a scale of one to 10, it was above a 10,” the North Pole resident told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://is.gd/ALJvVO). “My adrenaline was going so fast, all I could think of was getting the kids and dog to safety. I told the girls if the bear attacked me to take the dog and don’t look back.”
Jones-Robinson told her nieces, ages 13 and 9, to run back up the trail while she confronted the bear.
“It was kind of trotting around me, and then it would charge and growl,” said Jones-Robinson, an English professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “It charged, and I used my bear spray when it was about four feet away and then I fell with my pack on and dropped the bear spray.”
She said the bear charged at her several times, including once after it tried to attack her dog. That’s when she smacked it in the head with her walking stick, which broke. She also attempted to distract it by throwing the package of macaroni and cheese.
“As it circled around me, I heard the girls yell, ‘There’s another one. There’s another bear up here,’” Jones-Robinson said.
She told the girls to drop their backpacks and come back. The first bear continued circling. Jones-Robinson fumbled for a bottle of mosquito repellent.
The bear eventually retreated, but followed them for about a mile, bluff-charging several times before finally wandering off.
“When I got down off the mountain, I collapsed,” she said. “I was overwhelmed.”
Since she had left behind her backpack — and her car keys — during the encounter, she and her nieces had to hitchhike back to Chena Hot Springs Resort. They later hired a locksmith to open the door.
State park ranger Dane Happ said he believes the bears that bothered the hikers were the cubs that were seen with a sow along the trail and in the campground at the trailhead last year. The trail remains open, but rangers posted signs to alert hikers.
It was a terrifying escape for Jones-Robinson and her nieces, who were visiting from Washington state.
“All I could think about was this bear is so close to me I can see its teeth,” she said. “I could have kissed it. I wished I had a gun.”