Sow protecting cubs mauls man on trail

Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2006

KENAI - A runner near Soldotna was mauled by a grizzly sow protecting her cubs. The man's wounds were not life-threatening, authorities said.

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The 33-year-old man, a fire crew employee for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and a companion on Tuesday morning were running on Centennial Trail near the headquarters of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge when they spooked the bears. The man suffered cuts to his shoulders, back and arm, said refuge manager Robin West.

"He had been clawed, obviously, on the back once and also looked like he'd been bit on the arm," West said.

The adult bear knocked down the victim and darted between the runners and her cubs. She apparently knocked the man down a second time.

"That's when he decided he'd better just stay put," West said.

Once the victim remained still, the sow turned to the second runner, who ran to the refuge headquarters to find help, West said.

"She kind of ran after the other guy a little bit, never caught up to him and then turned, got her cubs and took off," he said.

The runners had used the trail for physical training many times before without having encountered bear problems. While running Tuesday, they occasionally called out to alert bears, West said. However, there is dense brush along the trail, West said.

The injured man walked back the mile or so to the parking lot by the time medics arrived. Central Emergency Services took him to Central Peninsula General Hospital in Soldotna.

Judging by the man's injuries and evidence found at the scene, West said, the attack was not predatory.

"By the looks of the situation, it was just a second or two encounter," West said.

The refuge plans to close the Centennial and nearby Keen-eye Trail for a couple of days. West recommended against jogging on any trail or dirt road.

"It's just not a good idea," he said. "Two reasons: one you can kind of entice a bear to chase you ... . We don't really understand the principle, but in some cases running by can entice a chase."

Also, joggers can come up on animals quickly and surprise them, West said.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife technician Larry Lewis said the department has no plans to track and capture the bear.

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