June 13, 2016 UPDATE:
The victim of the attack has now been identified by Anchorage Police as 50-year-old Fred Mayac of Anchorage. Mayac is an ivory carver who traces his family history back to King Island near Nome. He now lives on Arctic Boulevard about 5 miles northeast of where the attack took place. It is unclear why he was visiting Campbell Creek Estuary Park on the evening in question, but it is a pretty place from which to view Turnagain Arm. Alaska Department and Fish and Game officials still have not interviewed Mayac as to what happened because of the extent of his injuries.
UPDATED: 10 p.m. June 10, 2016
Almost 48 hours after a man was found bloody and near death on the west edge of Anchorage’s upscale Campbell Lake neighborhood, officials of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have offered their opinion that he was mauled by a moose and not a bear.
The opinion was carefully couched in terms that said it was based on moose tracks and hair, plus the lack of bear tracks, at what is believed to be the sight of the animal attack. The Fish and Game statement served to underline the power of any narrative officially established by press release in these times.
Thought at first to have been the victim of a Wednesday night assault, the man was shortly thereafter identified by the Anchorage Police Department as the victim of a likely bear mauling.
“Police conducted a search in the area to determine any possible clues as to what happened to the man,” a Thursday morning statement said. “After further investigating and working with medical staff at the hospital, it was determined that the male was likely attacked by a bear.”
With the still unidentified victim unable to talk, an investigation began involving both police and wildlife biologists. By early Friday, questions were being raised about the bear-attack conclusion. But at midday Ken Marsh, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the agency was still working with the police to determine what sort of wild animal attacked the man on the woody edge of an upscale neighborhood.
The scene of the attack is only about a half mile from where President Barack Obama last summer dined privately at the home of Alice Rogoff, the millionaire publisher of the Alaska Dispatch News.
It is in a quiet neighborhood where crime is rare. The highest profile incident to happen in the area in the past six months was the shooting of a dog.
In the wake of the events that began around 9 p.m. Wednesday with a report to police of a man who “was barely responsive and looked like he may have been cut with a knife,” a small, sow black bear was shot Thursday morning.
She was killed near the site of the suspected mauling, but it later turned out there was no evidence she was involved in the attack.
Her stomach contained only bird seed and some leftover human food apparently stolen from garbage, Marsh said. If the bear was used to dining on garbage and bird seed that might explain its tolerance of humans, he added. A state wildlife biologist taking no chances shot and killed the animal because it showed no fear of humans.
It is against the law in Anchorage to feed bears, whether intentionally or not, with garbage or seed from birds feeders, but it happens all the time. Despite the state admonishing people to take their bird feeders down come summer to avoid attracting bears, some people leave them up anyway.
Marsh said Fish and Game was then operating on the presumption the victim was mauled by a bear, but could not be 100 percent sure that was the case. Doctors believed the injuries were consistent with a bear mauling, but the man was so battered and cut up he could have been thoroughly stomped by a moose or attacked with someone with a claw hammer, Marsh said.
“He hasn’t been able to communicate,” Marsh added. “That makes it difficult. He hasn’t been able to say, ‘here’s what happened.’
“The investigation is still open. We’ve got five people working on this.”
Confusion surrounded the situation almost since the beginning, and this time social media couldn’t be blamed. With both moose and bears in the area, and with both capable of killing and injuring people, an attack by either wild animal was a possibility.
Police and wildlife biologists did find a disturbed patch of grassland near the Campbell Creek Estuary Park which where they think the attack took place. The park borders the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. The two protected areas provide habitat for both black and grizzly bears, and moose.
Marsh noted a moose cow with two calves was seen in the area. Cows with calves can be aggressively protective, and the feet of flailing cow moose will cut human flesh as two Anchorage women learned in a nasty encounter just days ago.
But whether this attack came from a moose might not be fully determined for certain until the victim recovers if he recovers and if he remembers.