KENAI — A bear that attacked a well-known biologist is much older than troopers previously thought.
Alaska State Troopers killed the aggressive brown bear after it attacked 48-year-old Toby Burke while he was on a beach, the Peninsula Clarion reports.
Initially, the bear was thought to be 2 to 3 years old, based on its size. But because its teeth were worn down, authorities say the bear was probably around 10 years old.
Troopers say that Burke, a biological technician at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, did nothing to provoke the adult female bear. He suffered bruises on his arm and was examined by emergency medical technicians who said he was fine.
“The man was very lucky,” Megan Peters, a spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers, told the Clarion.
Authorities were alerted to a brown bear acting erratically late Sunday afternoon on the Kenai Peninsula.
Reports to troopers said the bear had attacked a vehicle, a telephone pole and the man who was walking on the Kasilof River beach access off Kalifornsky Beach Road.
One Alaska State Trooper and two Alaska Wildlife Troopers responded, and the bear was shot as it came out of the woods at them.
The deceased bear was given to a local charity.
The Anchorage Daily News reports that Burke was bird watching with his wife and three of their children when they first spotted the bear a quarter mile away. The family moved to get further away from the bear, and then lost sight of the animal.
The next time they saw the bear it was around 150 feet away.
Burke gathered his family behind him as the bear charged and used his tripod and spotting scope to fend it off.
The bear ripped the scope off the tripod and swiped at Burke, and eventually moved away.
“He was able to jam the spotting scope into the bear’s mouth while keeping his family behind him,” wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger told the Anchorage Daily News.
The bear did charge a few more times.
“The father and his family deserve to be commended for how they handled the situation,” Selinger said. “He did an outstanding job.”
Selinger countered earlier reports from troopers that said the bear was starving. He said the bear appeared in decent condition and still had a layer of fat.
He said he plans to search the beach for anything that might have attracted the bear, such as a thawing moose carcass.