Seward man mauled by bear

Update: Friday

Alaska news sources have reported that the man mauled by a bear Thursday while walking his dogs at the Seward Airport was Ronn Hemstock, a teacher and long-time wrestling coach at Seward High School.


Original story:

A Seward man is recovering from injuries he got from being attacked by a brown bear early Thursday morning at the Seward Airport.

Seward police responded to the airport around 6:45 a.m. where the man had been walking his dogs on or near the runway, said Seward Police Chief Tom Clemons.

“We got a call from a (middle-aged) gentleman who advised that he had been mauled by a bear at the airport,” Clemons said.

The man had been able to call the attack in on his cellphone, he said.

It appears the man was mauled by a female brown bear who had two cubs with her, Clemons said. The man was taken to Providence Seward Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries, he said.

The Seward Airport was closed for a short period of time while officers searched for the bear, Clemons said. It has since reopened.

Officers contacted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game about the attack, said Ken Marsh, information officer for the department’s Division of Wildlife Conservation.

“We don’t have an office in Seward, so right now … the initial investigation’s being done by the Seward Police and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers,” Marsh said.

Fish and Game will use the information gathered by officers to determine if action needs to be taken, he said.

Right now, it looks like a case of a bear being caught off guard and attacking in a defensive way, he said.

Marsh said this is not an uncommon response for a bear when it is taken by surprise.

“They’ll neutralize the threat, you know, knock it down,” he said.

It is unlikely a bear will attack again in these situations, Marsh said. If information comes to light that gives Fish and Game personnel a reason to think the attack was predatory, the bear would be killed, he said.

This is the second reported bear mauling on the Kenai Peninsula this season, Marsh said. He said there was a report of a person being bitten by a brown bear near Hidden Lake in July. They were treated at a hospital and released, he said.

Marsh said as the sun rises later and sets earlier, it’s important for people to remain “bear aware” and take the same precautions they would during the summer, such as making sure trash is secure and adequately protecting livestock.

“Just be aware that we haven’t had a lot of snow yet and it hasn’t been terribly cold for an extended period of time,” he said, explaining that brown bears will stick around after snow flies as long as there is food readily available.


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