Sunbathing exchange student wakes up to bear licking his chest

Posted: Tuesday, May 18, 2004

When foreign exchange student Max Bergman headed from Sweden to spend his last year of high school in Juneau, he never expected to be kissed by a bear.

But he was Saturday, in the sun on Starr Hill.

He wasn't to blame, he said. He wasn't even using any fragrant lotion to attract it. "I was just lying there," he said.

Bergman comes from Linkoping, Sweden, south of Stockholm. The latitude is about the same as Juneau's, although he had to get used to Juneau's weather because Linkoping doesn't get nearly as much rain, he said.

"There are no bears," he added.

Bergman said he wanted to see a bear when he came to Alaska. And after arriving in Juneau in August, he saw a bear from about 100 feet away.

Saturday, he felt something fuzzy nosing at his chest and licking him.

"I was almost falling asleep," he said. "At first I thought it was a dog. I tried to push it away."

When he saw it was a bear, he was frightened. On all fours, it was about four feet tall.

Barbara Sheinberg, of Bergman's host family in Juneau, said it looked like a 2-year-old cub.

Bergman said the confrontation ended with the bear bounding away. He said he heard that a bear would leave you alone if you played dead, but his experience proved just the opposite.

"If I would not have moved, it might have taken a bite out of me," he said.

He told friends about the experience, and "they thought it was cool," he said.

His bear story isn't the most important thing he will take back to Sweden when he leaves Juneau in about a month. But he will share it with friends back home.

"The girls will like it," he said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at

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