A sign and road blocker at the head of the Hidden Creek Trail on Skilak Lake Road warns people about bear activity on Sunday, June 13, 2021 in Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

A sign and road blocker at the head of the Hidden Creek Trail on Skilak Lake Road warns people about bear activity on Sunday, June 13, 2021 in Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Bear bites hiker on Upper Kenai River Trail

The hiker was approximately a mile from the trailhead with a border collie off leash.

A hiker was bitten by a brown bear on Upper Kenai River Trail on Monday morning, according to a press release from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and a dispatch report from the Alaska State Troopers.

The hiker was approximately a mile from the trailhead with a border collie off leash when a sow brown bear — seen with two cubs — made its attack, the press release stated.

According to the dispatch, the dog chased the bear, causing the sow to charge the adult male hiker. After the bear bit him on the arm he retreated into the Kenai River. The bear followed him into the water and bit him again on the shoulder before retreating.

The hiker was able to return to his vehicle and contact emergency services, the dispatch stated. He was transported to a Kenai Peninsula area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Leah Eskelin, lead park ranger at the wildlife refuge, said she hopes the encounter can inform others who recreate in the area.

“I want this to be an opportunity for people to plan ahead when they go out,” she said.

The man’s border collie remained unattended in the area on Monday, the press release from the refuge reported, and people were encouraged to call headquarters at 907-262-7021 or the Alaska Wildlife Troopers at 907-262-4573 with any information about the dog.

Eskelin said she believes the border collie was found and reunited with its owner after she saw a post on the Kenai Peninsula Hiking Facebook Page.

“It’s not official but I got it from someone in the community,” she said.

According to the dispatch, the hiker had bear spray but didn’t use it. The bear hadn’t been found by troopers as of Monday evening, and Eskelin said even if the sow is located she doesn’t expect wildlife officials to take further action.

Usually officials only dispatch bears if they are believed to be overly aggressive while showing no signs of changed bad behavior, and don’t first respond to non-lethal deterrents.

The Kenai River Trail near Skilak Lake remains closed following the incident. Eskelin said the refuge is working to increase bear-aware signage in the area and should reopen the trail in the next few days.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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