ANCHORAGE - A Western Alaska man is recovering at an Anchorage hospital after a bear mauling, thanks to quick action by two hunting partners who may have saved his life - and his legs.
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The grizzly bear attacked Sean Evan, 32, last Tuesday while Evan was on a moose hunting trip with two others up the Shaktoolik River.
Details about the attack are sketchy. The hunters, all from the village of Shaktoolik, east of Nome, wouldn't talk about what happened.
But villagers described a remarkable rescue and an emotional scene at the local clinic as the health aide - Evan's fiancee, Lydia Jackson - cared for Evan's shattered legs and stabilized him for an emergency flight out.
Evan's hunting partners and close friends, Michael Rock, 23, and A.J. Nakarak, 17, were extremely shaken by the mauling and cried as they described what happened, Mayor Harvey Sookiayak said.
Sookiayak and others wouldn't discuss details of the attack, either, referring questions to the three hunters.
Rock, reached in Shaktoolik , said he and his brother, Nakarak, had nothing to say. Asked why, he replied, "It's embarrassing. We consider ourselves very good hunters and this thing (being attacked) is frowned upon by me and my hunting crew."
According to villagers:
The three hunters had taken a boat a couple of hours upriver from the village and had walked another two miles when Evan was attacked. His companions shot the bear several times, killing it.
With their friend badly injured, they made a leg tourniquet with a belt strap from rain pants and fashioned a splint from branches to keep his legs together below the knees. They hauled Evan back to the boat and sped back to the village. They elevated his knees and kept him warm.
Sookiayak, who helped dress the wounds at the clinic, said Evan's lower legs were badly mangled, possibly crushed by the bear's jaws.
Both legs had large tears in the flesh below the knee, especially the left leg. After a splint was removed from the left leg, only muscle seemed to hold the leg together, he said.
"It was a huge gash, something like I've never seen before," Sookiayak said.
Family members visiting Evan at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage say he's doing better than expected, city clerk Rita Auliye said. Doctors report he might walk with both legs again.
Auliye said the village sees Rock and Nakarak as heroes for saving Evan's life and legs by stopping the bleeding and getting him to the village quickly.
"The paramedics said he could have bled to death before they got to the clinic," she said. "We are pretty proud of those boys."