Eagle River teen fights bear to a draw

Young man yelled, kicked and punched attacking bear until it released him

Posted: Wednesday, August 06, 2008

ANCHORAGE - An Eagle River teenager who fought off a bear during an attack says he got his licks in on the animal, too.

Jim Lavrakas /Anchorage Daily News
Jim Lavrakas /Anchorage Daily News

"I definitely earned my bragging rights boxing a bear," Devon Rees, 18, told the Anchorage Daily News after the early Monday morning attack. "It got me a couple of times, and I got her a good couple of times. I wasn't going to give the bear an easy target."

Rees was attacked by a bear, likely a grizzly, about 50 yards from his home at the edge of Chugach State Park about 2 a.m. Monday as he was walking home from a friend's house.

His home also is near a creek where bear like to catch king salmon, said Jessy Coltrane, assistant Anchorage-area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Rees was attacked near the creek, but he fought back.

"I was doing the best I could to stay up on my toes and move all around it," Rees said. "I figured my best chance was to fight the best I could, fight the hardest I could to get away."

As the bear attacked, Rees started yelling furiously, throwing elbows and punches in the bear's head and kicking when he could.

Then, suddenly, the bear released him. Rees staggered up the road without shoes, and called for help on his cell phone as he headed to a nearby fire station.

"I don't think the bear's any worse for it, but it was probably surprised someone was fighting back," said Anchorage police Lt. Paul Honeman.

Honeman called the brawl a "tie."

Rees was given morphine for the pain at the scene, and treated at an Anchorage hospital and released after receiving care for cuts and gashes to his head, left arm and side, thighs and waist.

"I'm glad he didn't just lay there and let it eat him," said Rees' mother, Denise Jones. "I'm just glad he's OK. Just glad it's not worse than it is."

Wildlife officials could not find the bear, and Coltrane said they don't know if it was black or brown. However, she suspected it was a grizzly based on its actions and since a police officer who lives nearby reported seeing a brown bear sow and cub in the area shortly before the attack.

There are a number of bears in the area, and officials weren't sure which was responsible, Coltrane said. There are no plans to hunt it down because it appeared to be behaving normally.

Officials were urging residents to be alert for wildlife.

Rees last Friday had another brush with a bear when he was charged while riding his bike. He was not injured in that encounter.

The latest attack happened near the route of a proposed trail to connect Eagle River High School with Chugach State Park. Fish and Game has opposed the trail system as planned, saying there would be few worse places to build it in the municipality. Coltrane said this attack reinforces that.

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