Bear mauls man in Hoonah

21-year-old kills bear after run-in on hunting trip

Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2000

A Hoonah man was mauled by a brown bear Tuesday and had to kill it to escape its jaws.

Matthew "Matt" St. Clair, 20, escaped serious injury but was very shaken by the incident.

"He was hunting deer off the road system," said Fish and Wildlife protection officer Lt. Gary Folger of the Alaska State Troopers' detachment in Juneau. "He hiked up a mountain about two-and-a-half hours and spotted a buck. Then he heard a branch pop behind him. The bear knocked him down. He used a 30.06 to shoot it four feet away from him," Folger said.

"He stated he is never going into the woods again," Folger said, "and he didn't want to take us back to the carcass."

Because this was a clear case of self-defense, "We are not taking any action," Folger said.

Fish and Wildlife trooper Greg Garcia interviewed St. Clair while he was being treated at the Hoonah Medical Center for scratches on both arms.

St. Clair had been in alpine meadows in the Gartina Creek watershed. He spotted a buck and a doe, and had just gotten a bead on the buck when he heard a noise behind him, Garcia said.

"He shot the bear in the chest at close range. The bear was still quivering, so he finished it off. Then he ran down the mountain," Garcia said.

The victim could not be reached for comment. His aunt, Ella St. Clair, said the experience was difficult for her nephew.

"He was really shaking like a leaf," she said.

Matt St. Clair spent half his growing years in Juneau with his father, Frank St. Clair, and the other half in Hoonah with his mother, Carmen Carson.

"He's no stranger to the land. He's been going out hunting and fishing since he could walk," Ella St. Clair said.

The bear encounter "happened really fast," she said. "Before he knew it, the bear was all over him."

Matt St. Clair and Daniel Kendall, 27, had gone fishing Tuesday, taking guns along. "The fishing wasn't very good and they decided to go hiking," Ella St. Clair said.

"This has been a bad year for bears" in Hoonah, Ella St. Clair said. "They had to kill one last week because it got too close to people; it wasn't afraid of anyone."

The other bear was shot Sept. 5 near the airport, said Fish and Wildlife trooper Greg Garcia.

A young male brown bear charged Dennis Gray Jr. and his family while they were taking a walk, Garcia said. Ken Deitering witnessed the charge and maneuvered the bear away with his truck, but the bear would not leave the area.

Lt. Bill Mills responded and shot the bear in the neck.

"Then I showed up. The bear had crawled about 25 yards into the woods, and I finished it off," Garcia said.

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