Alaska man recounts weekend bear mauling

Runner encounters large grizzly and plays dead on the path

Posted: Thursday, June 01, 2006

HOMER - Mike Mungoven had two thoughts as he stumbled into a large grizzly on his morning run Sunday.

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"I looked up at this huge bear standing just two feet in front of me, the sun shining off its golden-brown fur," Mungoven said. "I remember thinking, 'Wow, that's just beautiful.' And then, 'Oh boy, this is going to hurt.'"

Mungoven was on his regular run Sunday morning, the same path he has taken every morning for several years.

"I always run with my dogs, and remind them to be careful around this particular area because the forest there is more dense with black spruce," Mungoven said. "Next thing I knew, I heard some rustling in the woods and the bear was standing two feet in front of me."

Mungoven and the bear stared at each other momentarily, and then the bear reacted.

"The bear got me across the shoulder first, then took a couple more swipes at me," he said. "I went down and curled up into a fetal position."

It was a move that Mungoven had been taught many times, and possibly what saved his life.

"It really worked pretty well," he said. "I just played dead. The bear came back and bit me a couple more times and then left me alone."

Mungoven said he speculated that the bear was possibly a female protecting her cubs, as he thought he heard some mewing sounds coming from the woods behind her.

"I really think the bear actually showed quite a bit of kindness in the way she mauled me," Mungoven said.

Thomas McDonough, assistant area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the four bear maulings on the Kenai Peninsula last year occurred when people surprised bears. Mungoven's case appears similar, he said.

McDonough said this was the first reported mauling of the year.

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