A local man is recovering after surviving a bear attack Monday afternoon that happened when he was out walking his dogs on trails below Diamond Ridge Road.
A member of the U.S. Coast Guard, the man in his mid-20s suffered a laceration to his scalp and had other non-life threatening injuries, said Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Kirko. Kirko is one of the medics who responded to the call.
“He was alert and oriented the whole time we were there,” Kirko said on Tuesday. “He seemed to be in good spirits. I would say he got pretty lucky.”
A homeowner off Nearly Level Road about a mile down from Diamond Ridge Road near Rucksack Road made a 911 call at about 3:50 p.m. Nov. 4, saying that a man had been attacked by a bear. The man hiked on a system of trails in the Diamond Creek drainage south of Diamond Ridge Road and north of Rogers Loop Road.
Kachemak Emergency Services crew members were sent out first because the attack happened in their response area. Because HVFD could get there sooner, the Homer department provided mutual aid and went to the scene. Kirko had been nearby and responded directly, as did several KES volunteers. Kirko said the homeowner drove the victim up to the Homestead Trail parking lot at the corner of Nearly Level Road and Diamond Ridge Road and medics met them there. The Homestead Trail in that area connects to the trail network.
The HVFD ambulance and crew, including a KES medic, took the man to South Peninsula Hospital. The dogs ran off, but were later recovered safely.
The man had been hiking further down below Nearly Level Road and Monroe Street when he and his dogs encountered a sow with multiple cubs, according to KES Chief Bob Cicciarella.
“I don’t know if the dogs played a role in it or not, but the bear did attack him, probably to protect the cubs,” Cicciarella said.
He said the victim ran up the hill and found the resident who called 911 at a house near Monroe Street and Nearly Level Road.
“The bear spared him,” Cicciarella said. “The bear could have done a lot more if it wanted to.”
Alaska State Troopers also responded. Sgt. Daniel Cox of the Anchor Point trooper post said in the four years he’s been on the lower Kenai Peninsula, this is the first mauling he can remember in this area. Bears have been seen in the area before, he said.
The attack happened below the middle section of Diamond Ridge Road that runs between West Hill Road and the Sterling Highway. Most homes in the area are on 1-acre or larger lots fronting the road, with some smaller subdivisions along the road. The south side includes the popular Kachemak Nordic Ski Club trails. Vegetation consists of areas of spruce, cottonwood and birch forests, with meadows of grass, fireweed and shrubs. The ski club has been mowing ski trails this fall in preparation for the ski season, but the area can be thick with high grass.
“The takeaway from this is understanding your surroundings and being aware this (a bear encounter) is a possibility when you’re out on the trails and such in the area,” Kirko said.
Kirko said the man was in good spirits while being treated,.
“He was actually chuckling a bit,” Kirko said. “It could have been a lot worse.”