ANAKTUVUK PASS — Crews equipped with night-vision goggles and flares staged a middle-of-the-night rescue to reach a hunter more than 36 hours after he was mauled by a brown bear in northern Alaska’s remote Brooks Range, the Alaska Air National Guard said.
The man was part of a group on a guided hunting trip about 30 miles north of Anaktuvuk Pass, a tiny Nunamiut Eskimo village in the Gates of the Arctic National Park. Initial rescue efforts by local search teams and by the Alaska State Troopers were turned back because of dense fog.
The 11th Air Force Rescue Coordination Center learned of the man’s plight Thursday, about 36 hours after the attack, and offered to help, the Guard said in a release. The man had suffered severe blood loss and other injuries, but a medical professional who happened to be in a nearby hunting party reached him soon after the attack.
Officials credited the medical professional with saving the man’s life.
“He was able to decrease the blood loss and maintain life until help could arrive,” said Master Sgt. Armando Soria, a search and rescue controller with the coordination center. “He provided expert care with limited resource for several hours, ultimately stabilizing, warming and rehydrating the victim.”
No details about the bear attack were released.
The Alaska Air National Guard sent a search-and-rescue plane carrying a helicopter crew from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage.
They landed at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, where a helicopter had been prepared for them. Together, the plane and helicopter headed more than 280 miles northwest to the victim.
The plane’s crew launched illumination flares to guide the HH-60 helicopter through Anaktuvuk Pass and to help find the site. The HC-130 plane also refueled the helicopter during the flight, between cloud layers.
The helicopter reached the victim before 3 a.m. Friday.
The man, who has not been identified, was brought to the Air Force base just before 5 a.m., then taken by ambulance to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. He was listed in stable condition there Saturday.