Brown bear attacks woman, son

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A startled brown bear attacked a Soldotna mother and her son along Resurrection Pass Trail on Friday afternoon, about three miles from the Cooper Landing trail head.

The sow, accompanied by a cub, first sank its teeth into the right arm of Justin Dunagan, an Arizona resident in his mid-20s. The bear then turned on Dunagan's mother, Kathy, raking a paw across her face.

Bill Shuster, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, interviewed the Dunagans and said they were their injuries were fairly minor.

''The mother said she's never going to go hike again,'' Shuster said. ''So the emotional and psychological stress is probably more serious than the actual injuries.''

The Dunagans said they left Friday from the Cooper Landing trail head to hike part of the 39-mile Resurrection Pass Trail.

The Dunagans were wary of bear encounters when they set out.

''They had bells on their packs,'' Shuster said. ''They were making noise.'' Justin Dunagan also carried bear repellant in his pack.

On the way to Juneau Falls, they saw a black bear on the trail and heard another in the brush. But they continued to the falls, about four miles up the trail, where they lingered and snapped photos before turning around.

Sometime between 3 and 3:30 p.m., the Dunagans were about a quarter-mile below the falls when they rounded a tight corner and found themselves about 6 feet away from the brown bear with a young cub.

''The cub ran off,'' Shuster said. ''The sow watched the cub run and immediately came and bit Justin on his right forearm. Justin didn't know if he got knocked down or fell down. He was just down.''

Justin Dunagan said he kicked the sow until she released him, leaving four puncture wounds.

The angry sow started off down the trail, then charged again.

It brushed Justin Dunagan aside and knocked down his mother.

''The bear took a swipe at her with her paw, and the claws hit the bridge of her nose and the inside of her lower lip,'' Shuster said.

Justin Dunagan, who had brought along his camera equipment, came to his feet and pounded on the bear with his tripod, Shuster said.

The bear backed off and ambled away.

''It was more scared than anything,'' Justin Dunagan said. ''It was just protecting its cub.''

The Dunagans estimate the entire attack took about seven seconds.

The attack prompted wildlife officials to post bear warning signs throughout the area.

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