UPDATED NOV. 4 – Authorities in Soldotna are now admitting they’re skeptical of a report of a bear mauling near the confluence of the Kenai and Funny rivers earlier this week. A man who was walking his dog there did show up at the local hospital with some scrapes, and when asked what happened, he did claim to have had a run in with a bear.
Soldotna police, however, could find no evidence at the scene to indicate a mauling, and his injuries weren’t consistent with those usually suffered in bear attacks. The man has not been identified.
He reportedly told police the bear got into a tussle with his dog, and that he shot at the bear. A state wildlife official who went to the scene to investigate could find no blood or other sign to indicate a bear had been shot.
There is some thought that there might have been a bear encounter in which the man’s dog, scurrying to get away from a bear, knocked the man down. A dog belonging to Seward resident Ronn Hemstock was scurrying to get away from a bear when it brought that animal back to Hemstock last week. The bear then did serious damage to Hemstock.
Wildlife biologists Hank Hristienko of Manitoba, Canada, and Stephen Hererro of Alberta, Canada, have reported the data on bear attacks suggests dogs can be a problem in bear country.
“…In the vast majority of cases, it seemed as though the dog(s) had been running loose at the time of the attack and drew the bear to their owners,” they reported in 2014. “It also appears that many of the bears weren’t focused on the dogs, but came right after the owner. In the three fatal attacks reported during the same period (2010-2013), one involved an individual who had let their dog out for a walk.”
They suggest keeping dogs on a leash or nearby and under voice command in bear country. They also say it’s a good idea to check to see the yard is clear of bears before letting the dog out to run.
The elementary and middle schools in Seward were on lockdown this morning as police there pursued a bear at first reported to have attacked an 18-year-old resident of the Resurrection Bay community.
Meanwhile, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna, a community on the opposite side of the Kenai Peninsula from Seward, were trying to sort out what happened with a Tuesday night bear incident along the Kenai River that sent a man to the hospital.
With both grizzly and black bears roaming around Seward, residents of that city have been on edge since popular shop teacher and wrestling coach Ronn Hemstock was mauled by a grizzly bear near the local airport last week.
The Seward incident this morning was at first thought to be another bear attack, but Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Ken Acton said it appears to be the case of a young man encountering a bear near Birch Street in Seward, turning to run and then tripping. He apparently suffered some minor scrapes in the fall, and the attack caused a small panic in Seward.
The Seward Police Department posted this on its Facebook page shortly after the incident:
“THE ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOLS ARE ON A TEMPORARY LOCKDOWN AS A PRECAUTION DUE TO A BEAR INCIDENT THAT OCCURRED IN FOREST ACRES. THE HIGH SCHOOL IS ALSO AWARE BUT NOT ON LOCKDOWN AT THIS TIME. OFFICERS ARE IN THE AREA NOW.”
The lockdown was later lifted.
Details on the Soldotna incident are even sketchier than those on the Seward incident. As best things can be pieced together from what AWT and ADF&G know, a Soldotna resident’s dog got into a tussle with a bear near the confluence of the Kenai and Funny rivers.
The man ended up shooting at the bear with a 9mm handgun. The bear took off, but somewhere in the melee, the man was injured. He drove himself to the local hospital.
“I just found out about this a few hours ago,” said Acton, who was in the process of trying to get the man’s name and find out more.
With hibernation approaching, bears are searching for the last food of the year they can find. Wildlife biologists said it is probably a good idea to avoid places like the Funny-Kenai rivers confluence where the carcasses of spawned out salmon tend to collect. Those are places where bears come looking for an end of season meal.
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