Bear injures hiker on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

A woman hiking alone Sunday on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s Lower Kenai River trail was bitten on the upper leg by a brown bear.

The woman was hiking with her two dogs when she saw the bear about 20 feet ahead of her in a riverside area of tall grass. She retreated and fell, “and the bear was upon her immediately,” according to a refuge press release.

“This appears to have been a defensive attack triggered when the bear was surprised at close quarters,” Refuge Manager Andy Loranger wrote in the release, which noted that bears usually become more active near rivers and streams during salmon runs, starting around June.

Soon after attacking, the bear left.

“It’s very possible that the dogs either distracted the bear, or the bear chose to quickly leave the human and chase one of the dogs,” Loranger said. “It was really unclear what happened there, but one of the dogs was not with her when the bear left the area, so she thinks maybe the dog pursued the bear or the bear pursued the dog. It’s one of the reasons the bear attack may have been short.”

The missing dog was later found and returned to the woman. The other dog accompanied her as she returned to the trailhead on Skilak Lake Road. Other hikers helped her reach the trailhead, from whence she was driven to Central Peninsula Hospital. She was treated and later released.

Loranger said that this summer “there’s nothing unusual going on in terms of brown bear activity in the area.”

“To date we haven’t had any reports of brown bears along the lower Russian River or near the Russian River-Kenai River confluence,” Loranger said. “It’s not unusual at this time of year to start seeing bears in those river corridors.”

After the attack, refuge law enforcement officers have increased their foot and boat patrols in the area.

“It’s to keep monitoring the situation and advising any visitors that we run into that there’s increased activity in the area,” Loranger said. “There aren’t any plans to dispatch the bear. We’re monitoring the situation.”

 

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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