Kenai teenager survives mauling by brown bear

Hunting partner scared off bear by unloading a .44-caliber revolver into it

Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2003

ANCHORAGE - A Kasilof teenager on his first bear hunt near Bear Creek ended up being hunted by a bear.

Cody Williams, 17, is recovering from a broken hand, puncture wounds and gashes after he was mauled by a brown bear sow Sunday.

"I thought I was going to die, pretty much," said Williams from his home.

Williams was attacked while hunting black bear near Tustumena Lake on the Kenai Peninsula.

He said he could hear the bear clawing and chewing him before the pain registered.

"I heard chomping or jaws or just the sound of it, the teeth (raking) the skull. It's kind of weird. It's like you can hear through the skull," he told the Anchorage Daily News.

He and a friend, Matt Weaver, both juniors at Skyview High School in Soldotna, had spent Saturday night at a cabin in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. On Sunday, the experienced outdoorsman staked out a meadow in search of black bear. He and his friend climbed trees to get a better look, but after a while Williams climbed down to take shelter from the rain under a nearby spruce tree.

As an airplane flew over low, Weaver spotted a brown bear that stood up, said Rob Barto, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer investigating the mauling. The sow with two cubs was walking toward Weaver, who made grunting sounds to scare them.

"They ambled off and they ambled off right toward where Cody was sitting," Barto said.

Williams readied his rifle and one of the cubs charged him, Williams said. He fired a single shot from about 10 yards away, which killed the 2-year-old female, Barto said.

But the sow kept coming.

Williams started backing up, slowly at first. He wanted to get up a cottonwood tree. From about 10 yards away, he took off running for it.

From his perch, Weaver took in the danger.

"He saw Cody running down the hill as fast as he could and the brown bear behind him," Barto said.

Williams said he was trying to climb up the tree when the sow got to him.

"She grabs me and throws me down on the ground. She was on me," Williams said. The bear gnawed and clawed at his hand, his arm, his legs and his face. He covered his neck and head with his hands.

Weaver fired a shot over the bear and it released Williams, who shouted at Weaver to keep shooting, Barto said.

The sow turned back toward Williams, who unloaded a .44-caliber revolver into the bear, which lumbered away.

An adult on the trip, Scott Oldenburg, found the teens, called 911 on a cell phone, loaded Williams into his skiff and got him to the dock, where paramedics were waiting.

Williams was treated at Central Peninsula General Hospital. He needed 38 staples to close the wound in his head. His left hand still needs to be seen by a specialist. He suffered deep puncture wounds to his legs and left arm, but he'll be fine, his father said.

The sow may survive, too. Barto and others did a foot and air search and saw no blood or other trace of the bear.

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