It’s been less than three months since University of Alaska Southeast assistant professor Forest Wagner was mauled by a bear, and he’s already back to hiking mountains.
“After ten surgeries and ongoing physical rehabilitation, Wagner is now walking around and has even climbed peaks on the weekends in Anchorage where he is residing as an outpatient,” according to a Wednesday afternoon news release by UAS.
The release came with a photo of Wagner, 35, on top of Flattop Mountain near Anchorage on June 25.
Wagner was mauled by a brown bear April 18 while leading a group of students on a six-day mountaineering course on the northeastern side of Mount Emmerich, near Haines. The trip was part of a University of Alaska Southeast field mountaineering course.
“Wagner was on skis and apparently surprised the bear, which charged and attacked him. In retrospect, Wagner suspects the bear was not hibernating due to an unusually warm spring, and that his ski track likely landed too close to the bear’s den. A bear cub was seen nearby. The sow was undoubtedly being protective of her cub,” the release said.
After the bear attack, Wagner was medevaced to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, where he was originally listed in “critical” condition. After being released, Wagner stayed in Anchorage for outpatient physical therapy and wound care.
Wagner still needs to get a skin graft due to a major injury on his left side. He’s expected to make a full recovery and plans to return to Juneau in August for the start of UAS’s academic year, according to the release.
“I am thankful that the bear did not hurt any of the people I led onto Mt. Emmerich, and for the overwhelming support I’ve felt since the incident from family, friends, and colleagues. It is my privilege and obligation to share and participate in adventure settings in the natural world. I harbor no ill feelings toward the bear,” Wagner said in a statement.
Wagner has worked at UAS since 2006 teaching courses like outdoor leadership, rock climbing, ice climbing, backcountry navigation and glacier rescue. He’s led many extended expedition courses.