UPDATED — The problems for University of Alaska outdoor programs continue. Less than three weeks after an avalanche in the Alaska Range caught all of the instructors and students in a University of Alaska Fairbanks mountaineering class, Alaska State Troopers are reporting a man mauled by a bear near Haines was an instructor for the University of Alaska-Southeast mountaineering program.
The “Fairbanks man was airlifted to an Anchorage hospital from Haines on Monday afternoon after being mauled by a bear nine miles west of town,” reported local radio station KHNS. Troopers identified him as 35-year-old Forest Wagner. Wagner was leading a Mountaineering I class on a four-day outing to the slopes of 6,405-foot Mount Emmerich.The university reported he was with two teaching assistants and 11 students.
Trooper said the group apparently ran into a sow with cubs. Troopers did not know what kind of bears were involved, but a grizzly is suspected. Black bear sows with cubs rarely attack and seldom den above treeline. Grizzlies sows with cubs attack with some regularity and usually den above treeline.
Troopers offered no details on the attack or how Wagner escaped. They did report another student maneuvered down the mountain to where he could get cell phone reception and called for help. Temsco Helicopters responded.
“Wagner was removed from the mountain via helicopter and transported to a LifeMed helicopter before being taken to a hospital in Anchorage,” troopers reported. Alaska’s largest city is about 500 miles west of Haines, a small community at the northern end of the Alaska Panhandle.
Troopers said all of the rest of the students were safely evacuated from the mountain after the mauling. Wagner’s condition is unknown.
So, too, the condition of 77-year-old Glenn Bohn of Wasilla, who was mauled in the mountain along the Denali Highway on Friday. Bohn was a guest at the Alpine Creek Lodge and on a grizzly bear hunt.
A trooper dispatch item that appeared on Monday said that on Friday Bohn was the victim of “a bear attack which occurred near mile 68 of the Denali Highway….The bear was subsequently killed by a hunting partner on scene.
“Bohn was driven to the Denali Highway by snowmachine where he was flown by LifeMed to Anchorage.”
Bohns condition was not immediately available, but Jennifer Bondy at the Alpine Lodge said she’d been informed he was in stable condition and expected to survive.
The Alpine Lodge is at 68 mile on the highway. It is about 150 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh said the attack happened in the hills somewhere above the lodge requiring the use of the snowmachine to get Bohn to the recently plowed highway.
Alaska Department of Transportation officials have only begun plowing the summer-only road open for the year. Marsh said the bear killed at the sight of attack was a grizzly boar but added that he didn’t know much more.
A Fish and Game biologist who tried to get to the scene gave up on postholing through rotting snow on the way to the kill site and turned back. Marsh added that he knew even less about the Haines attack. Haines is about 500 miles east of Anchorage.
“It is April what?” Marsh asked “The 18th?”
“We usually don’t have bears coming out this time of year,” said Haines master hunting guide Al Gilliam. Gilliam employs Bret Bohn, Glenn’s son, as an assistant hunting guide. It is unknown whether Bret was hunting with his father at the time of the Denali bear attack.
Marsh said a state wildlife biologist who flew over the Talkeetna Mountains from Palmer on his way to a landing site near the Alpine Lodge reported seeing an unusual number of bear tracks crisscrossing the snowy terrain.
Normally, the first bears of the year are just beginning to emerge from their dens in Alaska this time of year, but with a warm, snow short winter and an early spring, much in the 49th appears to be away ahead of schedule in 2016. Trees are already leafing out in Anchorage, the state’s largest city. That usually doesn’t happen until about mid-May.
Most grizzly bear hunting in the Aalska takes place in the spring just as bears are emerging from their dens. The animals will often spend several days on forays away from and back to a den after coming out of hibernation. Males are usually the first bears to emerge. If hunters can find a den site, they can often camp out nearby and wait to ambush a bear coming or going.
But there can be dangers in that tactic as the Bohn case illustrates.
The bear attacks are the first of the year in Alaska, which normally sees several people attacked by bears every year. Most people survive. The last deadly attack was in June 2013 when 64-year-old Robert Weaver was attacked by a predatory black bear that killed him outside his Interior cabin.
Grizzly bears, which range in size from a couple hundred pounds to nearly 1,500 pounds, are generally considered the most dangerous of Alaska bears because of their size and power. But black bears, which generally don’t grow to much over 300 pounds in Alaska, can also prove deadly.
This is a developing story.