Brown bear attacks, tosses Hoonah hunter

Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2001

A Hoonah man was tossed into the air by a brown bear on Thursday afternoon, but he escaped with a wound to his right leg just below the hip, from a canine tooth.

Nevertheless, on Friday afternoon, Frank Brown, 38, was "walking around and talking about going hunting again," said his wife, Ida Jean, with a certain dismay.

Brown, who works for a longshoring company in Hoonah, seemed unruffled, although he was picking devil's club thorns out of his hands. When the female bear threw him into the underbrush about 4:15 p.m., many thorns wound up under his skin.

The wound did not require stitches, Brown said. "But it bothered me all the way until I got to the clinic."

Brown, his stepson Elijah, 23, and Elijah's best friend, Walt Jewell, had gone hunting Thursday morning when the weather was fair. They hiked past Horseshoe Bend above tree line. After Frank Brown bagged his deer, it began to snow as they gutted it. On the way down, Brown carried the deer on his back. The trio paused to rest by a muskeg pond, and suddenly a big brownie roared out of the falling flakes.

"He yelled, 'Bear!' And by the time we all turned around, it was charging us as it was roaring. The rest of us got off without a scratch, but it was an intense moment," Elijah Brown said.

Frank Brown was thrown into a brushy gully, getting off a shot at the bear on his descent.

"That bear wanted to kill him," Ida Jean Brown said. "It just attacked him. It went at him and threw him. They shot it and it got right back up and went at him again, then turned at my son. They all shot it, but Elijah's bullet was the one that killed it.

"It threw him in such deep brush that Elijah could not see him at first. He yelled for him. Frank yelled back to say he was OK but he got bit," Ida Jean Brown added.

The trio ran all the way down the trail about three miles until they encountered a motorist near the dump, who gave them a ride to the Hoonah Medical Clinic. Dr. Leslie Wood of Sitka was making one of her frequent visits to the clinic, and treated Brown's wound.

On Friday, Fish and Wildlife Protection trooper Greg Garcia hiked to the ambush point with Elijah Brown. Garcia retrieved Frank Brown's rifle from the gully.

"He took pictures of the bear and collected the claws," Ida Jean Brown said. "They wanted to make sure it was dead and not wandering around."

The bear had three 2-year-old cubs with her.

The deer also was retrieved and is now hanging in Frank Brown's shed. He goes deer hunting every year, he said, and has no intention of changing his habits.

On Thursday, Frank Brown called his mother, Beatrice Brown of Juneau, to say he was fine. His sister Myrna Brown, also a Juneau resident, was relieved that her brother was safe. "We're a family of 13 and we already lost two of our brothers," she said.

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