Brown bear mauls Juneau man on Admiralty Island

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2001

A brown bear with a cub mauled a Juneau man hunting on Admiralty Island on Wednesday, severely lacerating his face and scalp.

Kenneth W. Horton, 52, was recovering from surgery this morning at a Seattle hospital and listed in satisfactory condition, according to a spokeswoman.

"He was in surgery to do some repairs to the injuries he suffered," said Susan Gregg-Hanson of Harborview Medical Center. "He's not in intensive care."

Horton was hunting with another Juneau man on the northeast end of the island near Piling Point when the bear attacked, said Roger Wetherell, spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Horton used a cell phone to call for help at about 1:40 p.m., and the Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter and boat to the area, roughly five miles west of Juneau, Wetherell said. However, two pilots with Coastal Helicopters found Horton first.

"When (the pilots) got out there, the guy was ambulatory and pulling his face back on," said Jim Wilson, owner of Coastal Helicopters. "The bear got him on the back of the head and came down across his face to his shoulder - pretty much removed a big flap, everything down to the bone."

A spokeswoman for Bartlett Regional Hospital said Horton was "conscious, lucid and responsive" and able to walk off the helicopter to a gurney.

The attack apparently came swiftly after Horton inadvertently startled the bear, said spokeswoman Marijo Toner.

"He was within about 10 feet of a mother bear, a sow and her cub, and the bear charged before he even realized he'd been sighted by the bear," she said.

Horton was medevaced shortly before 5:30 p.m. in stable condition to Harborview because of the complexity of the lacerations, Toner said.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard spotted Horton's hunting partner, Steve Stiner, 49, of Juneau and picked him up south of Piling Point, Wetherell said. The duo had separated during the hunt, and Stiner was unaware Horton had been attacked by the bear, he said.

State bear biologist Vern Beier said generally most brown bears on Admiralty Island go into hibernation by the second week of November. However, some bears retreat to their dens later in the season if there is a food source available, Beier said. It's also possible Horton stumbled upon the bears' den.

"Even though bears are pretty large, a lot of times the entryways are not that large - they squeeze and pour themselves in there," said Beier. "With the snow cover, I could see where a person wouldn't even know they were by a den."

Kathy Dye can be reached at kdye@juneauempire.com.



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