Brown bear mauls woman in Hoonah

Unprovoked attack comes as Judy Oliver picks berries 7 miles out Water Dam Road

Posted: Sunday, September 04, 2005

A Hoonah woman was mauled Friday by a large brown bear in a popular berry-picking area near her Chichagof Island community, a nephew who was the first police officer on the scene reported.

Judy Oliver, a teacher and longtime Hoonah resident, was in intensive care late Saturday at Bartlett Regional Hospital, where she was flown to have surgery after the attack, officer Arlen Skaflestad said.

"It was completely unprovoked," Skaflestad said.

Oliver was picking blueberries shortly after 7 p.m. Friday off an old logging road, Forest Service Road 8503, also known in Hoonah as the Water Dam Road, about seven miles from town, Skaflestad said. Her husband, Carl Oliver, later said he thought it was their golden retriever he heard running through the woods.

Carl Oliver told him the bear was on his wife and the dog attacked the bear. He ended up shooting the bear three times with the rifle he had brought, Skaflestad said.

"He said the bear was very active," he added. "He was afraid he would hit Judy."

After the bear left, he gathered his wife, put her into the car and drove to the clinic, and from there she was flown to Juneau.

At the hospital in Juneau, Judy Oliver underwent surgery from about midnight to 9 or 10 a.m., Skaflestad said. Her injuries included a broken jaw and a broken clavicle.

Judy Oliver is well-known and respected in the community, Skaflestad said.

Searchers looked for the bear for several hours Saturday morning but couldn't find it, Skaflestad said.

He said the police can't stop people from going to the area. "That's one of the favorite spots for locals to pick berries. We're advising they use caution."

Friday's mauling scene was the first Skaflestad had seen, he said. "I pray that I don't see anything like it again."

While brown bears are common in the area, bear attacks are not, he said. "We had one a few years back when a young teen was attacked," he said.

"Most of the people here have a high respect for bears," Skaflestad said. "The bears were here long before we were."

• Tony Carroll can be reached at

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