Bear attacks man, dog not far from Anchorage neighborhood

Posted: Friday, August 26, 2005

ANCHORAGE - A man walking his dog down an overgrown trail southeast of his Chugach Foothills neighborhood Tuesday evening was attacked by a grizzly sow.

"I hadn't taken one or two steps when the bear burst out of the brush," Gary Paterna said Wednesday. "It charged down and then it stopped."

The grizzly sow, with at least one cub, charged Paterna, swatted his chest and knocked him to the ground. But Paterna's dog, a 9-year-old Brittany spaniel named Tok, drew the bear's attention.

The bear pounced on the dog, giving Paterna time to leap to this feet.

"What I remember was just how big the head was - it seemed enormous," Paterna said later.

Twice more, the bear knocked him down, but Tok's presence seemed to interrupt each attack.

After the third hit, the bear bolted up the trail, allowing Paterna and Tok to run for the Klutina Drive trail head.

The encounter was near the boundary of Far North Bicentennial Park, perhaps 1,200 yards from suburban homes and lawns off the Tudor-Muldoon curve.

Paterna, 60, suffered scrapes and a sore hip where he'd fallen, plus five scratches from the bear's claws and a purple bruise across his chest.

His dog, Tok, didn't appear hurt at all.

"We were pretty much face-to-face. I thought, 'Here it comes. She's going to chew on me.' But she backed off," said Paterna, a former air traffic specialist who organizes schedules for a tour company. "It's great to be alive,"

The bear's behavior was normal for a surprised sow, said assistant area biologist Jessy Coltrane with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. She posted a sign at the trail head warning people about the attack.

The incident should remind people that both brown and black bears roam the Chugach Mountains foothills, especially near the North Fork of Campbell Creek and its run of spawning salmon, she said.

Paterna said he plans to carry a larger can of bear spray in the future and practice firing it. And he will avoid overgrown trails with poor visibility.

The bear left a muddy paw print on his old T-shirt.

"It's got a beautiful claw mark," Paterna said. "I think I'm going to get that one framed."

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