ANCHORAGE - A 31-year-old Montana deer hunter was mauled last week by a sow grizzly bear and two cubs, then spent two days in a remote cabin before he could be airlifted to a hospital.
Matthew Sutton, of Great Falls, and a friend were hunting Oct. 26 in Viekoda Bay, about 260 miles south of Anchorage, when Sutton was attacked.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Larry Van Daele said Sutton was by himself when he shot a deer and began dragging it to his hunting camp.
The bears attacked while Sutton, 31, was hauling the carcass to the beach along Viekoda Bay near the Rolling Point cabin, Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.
Sutton made it back to the camp and his partner, Bill Bush, helped him to a nearby public cabin.
"Originally, it was a cub that knocked him over and then he stood up and I believe he yelled something at the bears, and then all three of the bears attacked him," Peters told The Anchorage Daily News.
Family friend Wanda Merja said Sutton arrived in Alaska for the hunt last week.
Sutton was bitten and clawed on an arm, leg and the back of his neck during the attack, she said. Troopers characterized the injuries as non-life threatening.
On Tuesday, the two men were able to contact a passing Andrew Airways float plane by radio. Sutton was picked up by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and flown to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.
His family planned to meet him once he is transferred to an Anchorage hospital, Merja said.
Sutton's family spoke to him briefly, but he was medicated and didn't have the full details of what happened, she said.
"He just got cornered by a bear, dragging a deer out, and the bears attacked him," Merja said. "At the moment, he was alone and he got away and he made it back to the cabin."
Dean Andrew owns Kodiak-based charter Andrew Airways, which flew the men to the area for the weeklong hunt.
Bush told Andrew that Sutton was hauling the deer when the three bears "ambushed" him at the bottom of a hill, near the water's edge.
"The bears just wanted the meat and so they just started going after him. They just bit him up really good and then they went for the deer," he said. "We have a lot of bears, but for as many bears as we have on the island, and as much human-bear interaction, we have very few of these."
Once the men reached a cabin, they had no immediate help available, no transportation or satellite phone. They used a marine radio to reach the Andrew pilot flying nearby on other business.
"He happened to be going over pretty close and he heard a weak mayday, so he swooped in there and saw the situation. The guy was in too much pain to even be able to move him at all," Andrew said. "We usually check on our guys about halfway through but we had just put them in there a couple days ago."