JBER soldier attacked by bear

  • By Rachel D'oro
  • Monday, July 21, 2014 9:23pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE — An Alaska Army National Guard soldier was wearing a combat helmet and other protective gear when he was attacked by a bear while participating in a training exercise at a military base, officials said Monday.

Sgt. Lucas Wendeborn of Valdez is being treated for puncture wounds and lacerations after the mauling Sunday at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The female brown bear was defending her two young cubs, base officials said.

Wendeborn’s injuries are not life-threatening, National Guard spokeswoman Maj. Candis Olmstead said. Wendeborn, 26, was not armed and had no ammunition. But he was well-shielded by the helmet, load-bearing equipment and a reflective safety vest with ammunition patches.

“The gear that was over him, it probably had some impact on protecting him some,” Olmstead said.

Wendeborn was participating in a navigation exercise that involves giving soldiers compasses and maps and timing them as they make their way alone to hidden locations on a course.

In thick woods, Wendeborn moved around a tree and mere yards away the bear popped out of the brush. The two made eye contact.

“It appeared that he and the bear startled each other,” Olmstead said.

The soldier immediately thought of a bear-safety briefing he had earlier that day and dropped to the ground. The bear attacked, picking him up by the hip and throwing him. The bear swatted and bit at him a few times before leaving him alone after about 30 seconds.

The soldier waited between 15 and 30 seconds and then blew a safety whistle, alerting medics on the course, Olmstead said. The medics began to stabilize Wendeborn, who sustained puncture wounds in areas including under his left shoulder blade and right rib cage, as well as lacerations to his back, chest and left shoulder. He was transported to the base hospital.

The area surrounding the attack will be closed for one week, base spokesman Jim Hart said.

It was the second mauling at the base in two months.

Jessica Gamboa was badly mauled May 18 as she jogged on a trail and encountered a bear and her two cubs.

Gamboa, the wife of a soldier stationed at the base, has said she didn’t scream or fight during the attack, and the bear left her bleeding in an embankment. She sustained cuts to her neck, arms and legs, a torn ear and neck fractures.

She was rushed to a hospital by a soldier who was driving by when he saw her walking down the road holding both hands to her bleeding neck.

There’s no way of telling if the same bear was involved in Sunday’s attack, said Jessy Coltrane, a wildlife biologist with Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which also responded to the latest encounter. Coltrane said genetic material from the bear in the May attack was not available.

There are no plans to look for the bear in Sunday’s attack, said Coltrane, who noted that a search of the area failed to immediately find it. There are no immediate public safety concerns, she said.

Besides, the attack occurred in the middle of the woods in thick brush without a pattern of recreational use. And it was a defensive attack by a sow with two cubs.

“It was basically a bear being a bear,” Coltrane said.

Wendeborn is assigned to the 1st Battalion, 297th Brigade Reconnaissance and Surveillance Squadron (Cavalry), an Army National Guard detachment in Valdez.

More in News

The badge for the Kenai Police Department (Clarion file)
Walmart briefly evacuated after bomb threat

The investigation is ongoing.

Peninsula Clarion file
Merry voices to fill Kenai chamber

Historical society carolling event returns after hiatus

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State officials urge vaccination as omicron spreads in US

Omicron was first identified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
1 hunter dead, another missing after boat hits rough seas off Whittier

The pair were reportedly hunting on Wednesday on Esther Island in Prince William Sound.

Kenai City Council members James Baisden (left) and Deborah Sounart (right) listen as member Teea Winger (center) speaks in support of legislation opposing government COVID-19 mandates, during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, in Kenai.
Kenai council declares opposition to mask mandates

The statement does not change city code or supersede federal law.

Signage indicates that face masks are required for entry to the Soldotna Public Library on March 25, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. The Soldotna City Council voted Wednesday to make mask-wearing optional in city facilities. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Masks recommended, not required in Soldotna city buildings

Council amends measure to make mask-wearing optional

Nick Begich III, seen here in this undated photo, is challenging Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives saying Alaska needs new energy in Washington D.C. (Courtesy photo / Alaskans for Nick Begich)
Nick Begich III touts fiscal conservatism in US House race

GOP candidate challenges Young’s record

Sockeye salmon. (Photo via Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Fish and Game seeks comment on 2022 sport fish stocking plan

The Sport Fish Division plans to release approximately 7 million fish into the Alaska water systems over the next five years.

A map shows which parts of the Chugach National Forest are open to motorized winter recreation use for the 2021-2022 season. (Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
Parts of Chugach National Forest open to snowmachine use

The 2021-2022 winter motorized season will run through April 30.

Most Read