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Near deadly bear attack

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Alaska grizzly bear/National Park Service photo

UPDATED – June 13, 2o16

Alaska bear attacks don’t come any stranger than this: The Anchorage Police Department is saying a seriously injured man who stumbled out of the woods in South Anchorage last night was apparently the victim of near-death mauling.

Police report they were called to the scene by a citizen stating “the male was barely responsive and looked like he may have been cut with a knife.”

Police and medics responded to the area near the Edinburgh and Selkirk drives just off the west end of the very upscale Campbell Lake neighborhood around 9 p.m. and took the man to the hospital in critical condition.

“Police conducted a search in the area to determine any possible clues as to what happened to the man,” the police report said. “After further investigating and working with medical staff at the hospital, it was determined that the male was likely attacked by a bear.”

The teeth of both black and brown bears can leave people with knife-like puncture wounds, and the long, sharp claws of grizzlies can cut like knives if someone is slashed with a paw.

But as it turned out, or at least this is the latest belief, the man wasn’t attack by a bear either. It was a moose.

That conclusion came after  Alaska Department of Fish and Game was notified of the attack and begin investigating. Selkirk Drive dead ends in the Campbell Creek Estuary Park. Some king salmon are now returning to Campbell Creek. It is an area known to draw bears, both black bears and the occasional grizzly.

A state employees shot a small black bear sow in the area late Thursday morning. There was no evidence it was the bear involved in the attack, but wildlife officials weren’t about to take any chances. There are plenty of bears, both black and grizzly, in the Anchorage area, and the death of one will have no population-level effect.

The bear was later ruled out as the attacker, and the Fish and Game investigation continued. Eventually, given a lack of bear sign and an abundance of moose sign, biologists concluded the mauling was likely done by an enraged moose.

But neither police nor Fish and Game  have been unable to interview the victim, 5o-year-old Fred Mayac from Anchorage, as he remains in critical condition. They are meanwhile warning people to be alert for both moose and bears in the area.

The same can be said for everywhere in Anchorage. Moose are regularly visible everywhere. And bears, though less visible, are regular visitors in the city. A Fish and Game radio-tracking study years ago found clear evidence the bears – including grizzly bears – are among us all the time.

It is probably a good idea for anyone living in Anchorage to know the basics of dealing with bears, an unusual potential threat in any other urban setting. Fish and Game provides some guidelines here: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livingwithbears.main

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