Among the safest places you can be in Alaska if charged by a bear is in a bus, car, truck or sport utility vehicle.
Just ask Cody Kunau (pronounced Kun-oe as in canoe), a 32-year-old fishing guide at the Yakutat Lodge in Southeast Alaska. He wanted a close up view of a Southeast Alaska grizzly bear, but he got more than he bargained for when an adult grizzly decided to challenge his sport utility vehicle.
It starts with a grizzly crossing a road in Alaska. This is a not uncommon occurrence. Bears cross the road in Denali National Park by the dozens ever day. And this happens enough even in Anchorage, the state’s largest city, that law enforcement officers there had to kill a grizzly that was fatally injured in a collision with a car earlier this year.
But what happened when Kunau slowed his car to get a better look at this bear was unusual. For some reason, the animal took offense.
“On July 2, my friend Samantha and I were driving to the lodge for dinner when we encountered a bear far ahead in the road,” as he tells it. “This is a somewhat normal occurrence for here. Usually, the bears run off and catching a close up glimpse is hard.”
Hoping for a better look at this one, “we slowed our vehicle down to where we saw the bear cross the road when suddenly it erupted from the bushes and came after our vehicle,” he reported.
That would be something of an understatement. Video shows the bear coming in a full charge at the SUV.
Kunau’s last statement on a youtube post gets closer to capturing the reality of the encounter: “Even though I was in a car, it was one of the scariest moments of my life!”
Luckily, the SUV was not damaged, and no one was hurt.
Kunau had no idea what agitated the bear. He reported there were no cubs in the area that he could see and no sign the bear was defending any sort of animal kill.
“It charged us again so we went to the lodge to warn everyone of the incident,” he added. “This is a popular road in town located maybe 500 yards from the lodge so we wanted to let people know not to walk or bike there. In the rear view mirror we witnessed the bear also chase another vehicle that passed by after us without the occupants even knowing.”
There have been no reports of problems with the bear since then. The assistant lodge manager Monday described the attack as “totally random.”
Yakutat is an isolated community of about 700 people on the Gulf of Alaska in the Tongass National Forest just north of Glacier Bay National Park and just south of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the largest national park in the country.
Though far from the Alaska road system, the city’s population swells in the summer when anglers from all over the world arrive to fish for salmon and steelhead trout in the world-famous Situk River or halibut in Yakutat Bay to the north.
The plentiful salmon of the Situk and other streams help support a large and healthy population of grizzly bears, most of which just try to avoid people.