Condition of Alaska professor improves after bear attack

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Tuesday, April 19, 2016 9:35pm
  • News

JUNEAU — The condition of a university educator who was mauled by a bear while teaching a mountaineering course to students in southeast Alaska was improving Tuesday.

His condition was upgraded from critical to serious, according to a spokesman from Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

A sow with two cubs attacked University of Alaska Southeast assistant professor Forest Wagner on Mount Emmerich, near Haines, Alaska, where he was leading 11 students and two teaching assistants Monday, said spokeswoman Katie Bausler. A student hiked down the mountain to get cellphone reception and called for help. No one else was hurt.

Troopers coordinated a helicopter rescue into Haines. Wagner was then flown to Anchorage for treatment. The hospital said Wagner, 35, of Juneau, would not give interviews.

Troopers’ spokeswoman Megan Peters said it wasn’t clear what kind of bear attacked Wagner.

Students were evacuated from the mountain after someone saw the bear in the area, but Peters said that person was too panicked to relay the type of bear.

The students spent the night in Haines with another professor and planned to take a ferry back Tuesday to Juneau, Bausler said.

Meanwhile, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist was seeking information on the attack and planned to interview the students upon their return to Juneau, according to spokesman Ken Marsh.

Wagner has been coordinating and teaching in the university’s outdoor studies program since 2006, according to his biography. He teaches rock and ice climbing, backcountry navigation, glacier travel and mountaineering.

His teaching schedule said he planned to leave the mountain by Tuesday.

Wagner is the second man attacked by a bear in Alaska within days. A 77-year-old bear hunter is recovering at an Anchorage hospital from injuries he suffered when a grizzly mauled him in interior Alaska on Friday.

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