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Friends describe fishing trip turned nightmare

RUSSIAN RIVER: Bear with cubs "really aggressive" just before mauling.



Anchorage Daily News


(Published: July 19, 2003)

With 25-year-old Daniel Bigley still fighting for his life at Providence Alaska Medical Center on Friday, details were beginning to emerge about the Tuesday morning bear attack that turned a pleasant fishing trip to the popular Russian River into a nightmare.


Bigley's friend and fishing companion, Jeremy Anderson, said he was at the top of a stairway leading to the Grayling parking lot in the Russian River Campground around 11:35 p.m. Monday when he heard that a brown bear had been spotted on the river below the bluff there.


The 22-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and his 20-year-old girlfriend, Emily Maasch, had been fishing with Bigley and another young man on the river only half an hour before. They were waiting near the parking lot for their friends to join them.


From that spot overlooking the river, Anderson said, "we saw someone taking pictures. So we hurried up and went over there because Emily had never seen a bear before.''


Anderson himself had a seen a few. He spent last year working for the concessionaire that runs the Russian River Campground, a place regularly visited by bears. And this summer he is rowing rafts on the Kenai River for a Cooper Landing tourism business. Bears are a common sight along that river.


What Anderson and Maasch saw from the bluff Monday night was "this 800 to 900 pound grizzly bear with, I think, it had three cubs. When we saw the bear, it was already really aggressive ... it was running down the middle of the river, shaking its head.''


Anderson had no idea what might have upset the bear. The possibilities are endless. It could have been spooked by a fisherman downstream on the Russian. It could have had a bad encounter with another bear or bears. It could simply have been worried about the cubs, which Anderson said disappeared into the brush along the near bank of the river while their mother made a fuss.


"It was in the middle of the river, running down the river,'' Anderson said. "I saw it shaking its head. It was in one of those very aggressive moods.


"The cubs were along the shoreline that we couldn't see. Then the momma veered off. The momma veered toward the trail.


"That's when I had the bad feeling,'' he said.


The Russian River angler's trail, toward which the bear had turned, is at midsummer one of the most heavily trafficked trails in Alaska.


Though it was now late at night, Anderson noted, "we'd seen some people going down (that trail) right about 20 minutes before it happened.''


Still, he wasn't particularly worried about their friends -- Bigley and Bigley's roommate, John. The roommate, Anderson and other friends of Bigley said, has been traumatized by the bear attack, and they fear anything written about the incident might put him under more stress, so they asked that his last name not be used.


John was only feet away from Bigley when the bear attacked, grabbing him by the face. No one is sure how long the mauling continued, seconds or minutes, those involved said. Everyone familiar with the situation said it was obvious to John then that Bigley would never be able to see again -- if he lived at all.


Bigley's condition Friday remained critical.


His parents are in Anchorage with him now, praying he will survive so they can take him back to his Carmel, Calif., home to recover and begin to build a new life.


Anderson said it is all hard to believe.


"John and Dan are very experienced in the outdoors,'' he said. "More (so) than 80 or 90 percent of the people who go down there" to the Russian. If someone was to have a problem with a bear, Anderson didn't expect it to be these two.


But that night he was beginning to worry what this bear might do because it was acting so strangely. Most bears seen at the Russian are afraid of people. A few act curious. Occasionally there are those that behave aggressively to try to get food or take fish.


But this one acted like it was angry.


"I really did have a feeling in my head that something wasn't right,'' Anderson said. "Five or 10 seconds later, I heard the screams.''


It was shortly after midnight, early Tuesday morning. At first, he thought someone was simply making noise to shoo away a bear. He did not know that Bigley and John were on the trail there. But he quickly realized something had gone badly wrong.


"It registered with me,'' he said, "and I said to Emily, 'those aren't screams. Those are cries for help.' ''


Together, Anderson and Maasch crept to the edge of the bluff to see if they could spot anything in the dusk that was slowly sliding into darkness.


"We were very cautious walking up there,'' he said.


When nothing was visible from the bluff, Anderson told Maasch to keep watch from there and he would descended the stairs that switchback down the side of the hill. He started down, but didn't get far.


At the first corner, he said, he ran into two cubs that he described as small enough that "I could have cradled them in my arms."


The cubs, he said, were "about 10 feet away from me and started hissing and coming toward me.''


Anderson started backing up. About the same time, he said, Emily saw the sow below the bluff and shouted a warning that the animal was coming up the steep hillside.


"We didn't have anywhere to go,'' Anderson said, "so I told her to run for the bathroom.''


The Forest Service outhouses at the Russian River are concrete structures capable of stopping a bear, but Anderson and Maasch never made it there.


"We wouldn't have made it to the bathrooms,'' Anderson said, "because the bear was only two steps behind us. (But) at that point, we saw a window of opportunity, which happened to be the Blazer.''


A Chevrolet Blazer had, fortuitously, pulled into the Grayling parking lot only 15 minutes before, Anderson said, and, even more fortuitously, its rear window was smashed out.


"I pushed (Emily) in,'' Anderson said. Then he dove in behind her.


"The bear was two feet behind me,'' he added. "It was growling and shaking its head. Then it started circling the Blazer, growling and shaking its head.


"We were freaked out, you know.''


The bear made a few turns around the Blazer, but didn't try to get inside, before heading for the woods. Anderson and Maasch started honking the car horn, thinking that would bring help. When it didn't, Anderson and Maasch hopped out and went for the nearest campsite.


"Campsite 81,'' he said.


Retired U.S. Army Ranger Col. Frank Valentine, a tourist from Georgia, answered the banging on his door to find a distraught young couple.


"They were in shock,'' Valentine said. "They were very, very anxious and scared to death.''


"I told him, 'We need your cell phone, and we need a gun,'' Anderson said. "I told him I was sure there was a bear mauling.''


A phone call was immediately made to 911 to alert authorities, after which Anderson and Valentine headed for the scene of the mauling.


"We started hearing the screams,'' Valentine said, "so I responded. I noticed it was John's voice.''


Anderson and Valentine found John cradling Bigley's badly bleeding head. It looked, Vietnam veteran Valentine said, "like (Bigley) had been blasted in the face."


John, according to Anderson, said he and Bigley had been coming up the trail from the direction of the Kenai River with Bigley's dog, Maya, when the dog went alert.


"They were talking,'' Anderson said. "They were making noise. They were laughing. But about 10 seconds before the attack, the dog got skittish and barked. They heard a rustle through the brush where the island is.''


That island is just upstream from what Russian River anglers know as the "cottonwood hole,'' one of the more popular fishing hot spots between the Graying parking lot and the Kenai. The island upstream from it is small, maybe 10 feet wide and 50 feet long. Anderson thinks the cubs might have been on the island while the sow was in the river, but added "this is the part I'm a little foggy on.''


He does know, from talking to John on the night of the attack, that the sow came out of the brush near the island, just feet from where the riverside angler trail intersects a trail that cuts off to the stairway to the Grayling parking lot.


"Maya, the dog, jetted down to the (Kenai-Russian) confluence and actually brought back two people,'' Anderson said. "John was able to duck in the bushes. The bear ran about two feet past him and grabbed Dan.''


In a matter of minutes, if not seconds, the bear's jaws had pushed the young fisherman close to death.


"I don't even want to get into details of that,'' Anderson said. "John and Dan and I are close friends. I will give props to everyone that was helping out. This was one of those things I hope I never have to deal with again.''


Anderson is now trying to figure out how to establish a recovery fund for Bigley. Efforts were to start today at the "Festival of the Forest'' in Cooper Landing.


A half-time employee at Alaska Children's Services, Bigley is fortunate to have some health insurance.


"Our policy is that half-time employees (do have insurance). ... So he's covered by our health insurance,'' said Jim Maley, executive director there. "We're all relieved about it."


Maley said Bigley was working as an activity therapist with troubled kids.


"He worked with, and hopefully will at some point again work with, kids on a one-to-one basis,'' said Maley, who added that when he met Bigley he was impressed by the young man's "positive outlook. He was extremely positive and gifted in working with children.


"Our thoughts and prayers are with him now.''



I have never been lost. Been awful confused for a few days, but never lost!

N61.12.041 W149.43.734

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Bear behavior signs


Common activities show when a bear is tense




It's hard to know what a bear is thinking, of course, but researchers, hunters, hikers and others who learn bear lore in order to survive have determined certain patterns in bear behavior.


Here are some general guidelines about bear behaviors, taken from Katmai National Park's "Bear Facts." Use safe practices to avoid making contact with bears.



• Standing on hind legs: Bears generally stand on their hind legs to see and sniff better. It's not normally an aggressive position.


• Standing broadside: A bear may stand broadside to assert itself. People have usually interpreted it as a demonstration of size.


• Standing and facing you: This is an aggressive position and may signal a charge. It probably is waiting for you to pull back.




• Huffing: A tense bear may exhale a series of sharp, rasping huffs. A sow may huff to get her cubs' attention.


• Woof: A startled bear may emit a single sharp exhalation that isn't as harsh as a huff. If her cubs woof, a mother will become alert immediately.


• Jaw-popping: Females often emit a throaty popping sound, apparently to beckon their cubs when danger is sensed. A mother making this sound is nervous and extremely stressed. Bears other than sows also pop their jaws.


• Growl, snarl, roar: This are clearly signs of intolerance.


Other indicators


• Yawning: Indicates tension, as when humans or another bear are nearby.


• Excessive salivation: Clearly a sign of tension. The salivation may appear as white foam around the bear's mouth.


• Charge: Most charging bears stop before making contact. The intensity of the charge and associated vocalizations may vary, but a charge is distinctly an aggressive or defense act. Bears may charge immediately, as a sow fearing for her cubs, or may show stressed or erratic behavior before charging.



I have never been lost. Been awful confused for a few days, but never lost!

N61.12.041 W149.43.734

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McHugh Creek hiker tells of being stalked by 3 bears


Behavior of sow and cubs was out of character


By Craig Medred / Anchorage Daily News


McHUGH CREEK -- About a mile north of here, still within scent of families barbecuing at one of the most popular highway waysides in Alaska, Jim Leslie believes he had a near-death encounter with three bears.


"I've never been so scared in my life," he said.

Though the three black bears never got closer to Leslie than about 100 feet, he said their behavior gave him the clear impression he was being stalked. Black bears have been known to do that, though those have almost always been lone bears. (Published: June 1, 2003)


What troubled Leslie about these bears was that they didn't do what bears are supposed to do when they encounter people: flee in fear.


Leslie, who works at Providence Heart Center in Anchorage, had known every other bear he'd met in his years in Alaska to do exactly that.


"I've run across bears before," Leslie said, "although usually it's just one bear.


"These were not scared of me one bit. I thought I was going to be dinner."


What the bears had in mind will never be known. They could, experts say, simply have been curious, confused, maybe even preoccupied. Distance runner Pam Richter, who has met what may be the same group of bears on the Turnagain Arm Trail, said that's how they appeared to her.


The first time, she said, the cubs were playing on the trail, and "Mom was down below. She was totally unconcerned.''


The second time, about two weeks ago, all three bears were on the trail. They weren't aggressive, Richter said, but neither were they fearful.


"We stood up big and tall and put our arms up,'' she said, "and she just kept sauntering toward us eating grass. I didn't feel threatened at all, but she certainly wasn't threatened by people at all.''


Richter and her companions scampered off the trail and detoured around the bears. A number of runners who met the bears during a footrace on the trail last week did the same.


Chugach State Park superintendent Jerry Lewanski, who lives in a home above Turnagain Arm Trail, thinks these might be the same three bears he has shooed out of his yard several times. The bears are somewhat habituated to humans, he said, but appear to pose no threat.


But one never knows.


Bears, even black bears, are powerful wild animals. Leslie believes the biggest of these might have been 250 pounds, about the weight of a head-smashing NFL linebacker.


People with considerable experience around black bears tend to view the animals as nonthreatening. Those with less experience tend to be more nervous. Park officials say that's understandable.


Go a few miles east of where Leslie met the three black bears, and you're at the site of one of the deadliest and best-known bear attacks in state history.


In May 1995, nationally recognized senior runner Marcie Trent, 77; her locally well-known marathoning son Larry Waldron, 45; and Trent's grandson Art Abel, then 14, were jogging and hiking up the McHugh Creek Trail toward McHugh Lake when they stumbled into a brown bear on a moose kill.


The bear attacked. Trent and Waldron were killed. Abel survived by climbing a tree.


The Alaska Department of Fish and Game later launched a hunt for the bear but found no sign of it.


Chugach State Park closed the McHugh Creek Trail for several weeks after the attack, but eventually fears began to subside and the trail was reopened. Over time, use returned to normal, but the history of what happened along the trail has long made hikers in the area edgy.


Edgy would be a good description for Leslie, who outlined his first meeting with the three bears this way:


"When bear number one came into sight, 150 feet away, I thought I was in trouble. When number two and number three came into view, I knew I was a dead man. Even with six well-placed shots -- if I was lucky enough to have the time to get all six off -- I knew I was in way over my head."


What Leslie did not know was that in the history of black bear and human contact, there has been only one documented case of a black bear sow with cubs killing anyone. In fact, that East Coast bear was the only black bear sow with cubs ever to touch a human in the wild.


Dozens of other sows have bluff charged, stomped the ground, clicked their teeth and generally made a fuss but not touched a human. Leslie, who has had some experience with bears, said he might have felt more comfortable if this sow had acted more in character by doing those sorts of things.


The out-of-character behavior by all three bears bothered him.


"The bears made no sounds and kept slowly closing the distance without taking their eyes off me,'' he said. " I knew I was a dead man at that point."


So he called the Anchorage Police Department.


"I had my cell phone and APD on 911 in my left hand and my .44 Magnum in my right hand, and I felt it was going to end badly unless a miracle happened. I don't know why I called it in, to be lucky enough to have help arrive in time, or to have someone know my body would be somewhere on the trail for recovery.''


Police dispatchers, Leslie added, seemed more than a little confused by his report that he was in trouble with a bear a mile north of the McHugh Creek picnic area.


"They kept asking, 'Where are you?' '' he said.


Police Department spokeswoman Anita Shell said the department really has no procedure to deal with calls like this. It is geared to fighting crime in the city.


"I don't know what the officers could have done or would have done,'' she said. "I don't know exactly how they'd deal with it. (State) Fish and Wildlife, actually, would be the ones who would go out there.''


But police did dispatch patrol cars to McHugh Creek, and Leslie said dispatchers told him to keep talking to them.


"Hold on a minute," Leslie told them at one point. "I'm going to fire a warning shot.''


The first warning shot sent one bear scurrying several feet up a tree, Leslie said, but the others appeared unfazed. They just kept watching him.


"There were not scared of me one bit,'' he said. "I had the wind at my back. I was making all kinds of noise. They knew it was me. I thought I was going to be dinner.''


The bear that had gone up the tree climbed down. Then all three started advancing on Leslie again.


"They didn't make a sound,'' he said. "They just started walking right at me. There was no huffing, no snapping of jaws, no bluff charges. They just kept walking at me, and I kept slowly backing down the trail.''


When the bears got inside of 100 feet, Leslie fired another warning shot with his handgun.


This time, he said, one bear jumped off the side of the trail, and a few moments later the others seemed to take that as their sign to leave.


Within seconds, they disappeared into the forest.


"I got a miracle,'' he said. "I have no explanation why it ended with all alive and unhurt. I just know I am the luckiest man alive, a man who was given a second chance."


Fish and Game area wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott knows that there is never any predictability in bear encounters but thinks this might be a bit of an overstatement on Leslie's part. He notes the number of Alaskans who have closer encounters with black bears and never know it.


Once the leaves sprout on trees and bushes, he said, it is not unusual to get within 100 feet of a bear and never see it.


Sinnott said he's spent time within 90 to 120 feet of radio-collared bears he couldn't spot, even though a beeping radio transponder told him where to look.


The reality, according to wildlife experts, is that almost everyone who has spent a summer hiking in Alaska has had a close encounter with a bear.


The only question is whether people know it or not, because the bears usually don't make themselves visible except in parts of June and July, when black bears are mating.


"People start seeing herds of bears then,'' Sinnott said.


Leslie thinks he already has.


He thanks God that he survived.



I have never been lost. Been awful confused for a few days, but never lost!

N61.12.041 W149.43.734

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Teen survives mauling by brown bear


Kenai Peninsula hunter gets 38 stitches to close his head wound


By Lisa Demer / Anchorage Daily News


The pain wasn't registering yet, but Cody Williams could hear the damage as the bear clawed and chewed on him.


"I thought I was going to die, pretty much," Williams, 17, said Tuesday from his home in Kasilof, where he was recovering from a broken hand and numerous punctures and gashes after a bear mauling Sunday. (Published May 14, 2003)


He was attacked by a brown bear while hunting black bear near Tustumena Lake on the Kenai Peninsula.


"I heard chomping or jaws or just the sound of it, the teeth (raking) the skull. It's kind of weird. It's like you can hear through the skull," he said in a telephone interview.


Before the attack by the sow, Williams said, one of her cubs charged him. He shot and killed it.


He and a friend, Matt Weaver, both juniors at Skyview High School in Soldotna, had spent Saturday night at a public use cabin in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.


Williams said he has years of exploring the outdoors in Montana and now Alaska, where his family runs the Crooked Creek RV Park. But he said he mainly hunted deer and "small critters." He had never killed a bear.


Sunday morning, the teenagers scouted around for moose antlers, found a few, got lost around a swamp, and made their way back to the lake. They hooked up with an adult friend of Weaver's family that afternoon to hunt black bear, which are in season in the refuge.


The trio staked out a meadow on the lake's north side, about 11/2 miles west of Bear Creek. They climbed trees to get a better look. It was raining, so after a while Williams climbed down from his cottonwood. He intended to take shelter under a nearby spruce tree.


As an airplane flew over low, Weaver spotted a brown bear that stood up, said Rob Barto, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer who is investigating the mauling.


It was a sow with two cubs, and they were walking toward Weaver. He made some grunting sounds to scare them.


"They ambled off and they ambled off right toward where Cody was sitting," Barto said.


Williams said he could hear the bears rustling around. He readied his .30-06-caliber rifle. One of the cubs charged him, Williams said. He fired a single shot from about 10 yards away. It went through the cub's right front shoulder and killed the bear, a 2-year-old female, Barto said.


The sow kept coming.


Williams started backing up, slowly at first. He wanted to get up the cottonwood tree. From about 10 yards away, he took off running for it.


From his perch, Weaver took in the danger.


"He saw Cody running down the hill as fast as he could and the brown bear behind him," Barto said.


Williams said he was trying to climb up the tree when the sow got to him.


"She grabs me and throws me down on the ground. She was on me," Williams said. The bear gnawed and clawed at his hand, his arm, his legs and his face. He covered his neck and head with his hands.


Weaver fired a shot over the bear and it released Williams, who shouted at Weaver to keep shooting, that he was bit, Barto said.


The sow turned back toward Williams. He had dropped his rifle but now had his .44-caliber revolver out. He unloaded all six shots at the brown bear, which lumbered away.


Williams reloaded as he walked toward Weaver. A bone was protruding from his hand, so he poked it back into place. Nothing hurt too bad, yet, he said. The adult with them, Scott Oldenburg, had gotten to the teens by then and called 911 on a cell phone. He loaded Williams into his skiff and got him to the dock, where paramedics were waiting.


Oldenburg, who was the farthest from the attack, told Barto that "all he heard was the one shot, the blood curdling scream and the six quick shots."


Williams was treated at Central Peninsula General Hospital. He needed 38 staples to close the wound in his head. His left hand still needs to be seen by a specialist. He suffered deep puncture wounds to his legs and left arm. But he'll be fine, his father said.


The sow may survive, too. Barto and others did a foot search and fly overs in a plane and a helicopter. They saw no blood or any trace of the bear. They also found no evidence of bear baiting, which is not allowed in the refuge.


There are about 250 to 300 brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula, so few that in recent years no brown bear hunting has been allowed, said Bruce Bartley, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. But shooting one in defense of life or property is perfectly legal, he said.


Bears maul about a half dozen people a year in Alaska. Every two or three years, someone gets killed. It's almost always a brown bear trying to eliminate a threat, Bartley said.


The best advice? Stay in the open. Make noise. If a brown bear attacks, drop down, play dead and protect your neck. If a black bear attacks, fight back, Bartley said.


If the bear had wanted to kill him, it would have, Williams said.


He knew not to run, but didn't want to shoot the brown bear. In hindsight, though, he said he should have stood his ground with his gun at the ready.


"He made instant decisions that he will carry scars the rest of his life for," Barto said. "No one knows how you will react in a stressful situation until you get in the situation."


As for Williams, his advice is to carry a sidearm and be cautious. "Don't try to second-guess a bear, I guess," he said.



I have never been lost. Been awful confused for a few days, but never lost!

N61.12.041 W149.43.734

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martmann said:


Do you have any magical statistics for what percentage of people that walk through bear habitat are killed by bears? I bet car deaths would be pretty small by comparison in those areas.


In the lower 48, everything I've seen would indicate the risks of getting killed, or even injured by bears is quite small when compared to getting killed by falling trees, falling rocks, lightning etc. The only place I've seen that actually kept the statistics was Yellowstone park. There falling trees kill more people. In the Teton area, which has a pretty high bear population, I haven't heard of an attack in several years. I have heard of two deaths recently from falling rocks, several from lightning, the last occurance being this weekend.


In Utah, I've seen maybe a dozen bears in the more popular backcountry areas in the last 3 or 4 years. Many people are exposed, with millions actually venturing into the states backcountry yearly. We've only had one bear attack in the last 11 years, which was only about a month ago and non fatal.


As for my choice of defense should the risk be high. 12ga, 18" barrel, alternating slugs and 00 in the mag. For those that say the odds of hitting the target are high, that's why I've trained and practiced for many years.

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Bear safety tips


Don't surprise or try to outrun a bruin




Here are safety tips for brown bears taken mostly from Katmai National Park's "Bear Facts" and Denali National Park's "Alpenglow" guides to peaceful coexistence with bears and nature.


Avoid surprise encounters

1. Don't surprise a bear. Bears are active day and night. Watch for pawprints and scat. A grizzly's paw may leave a mark 15 inches long.


2. Be alert always to your surroundings. Make noise, especially when visibility is limited, to let bears know you're coming. Sing and shout as you walk. Avoid whistling or grunting, which a bear may perceive as sounds of food or threat.


3. Never run. Running might encourage a bear to chase you. Brown bears can run 30 mph and can gallop up a hillside. You can't.


4. If you come face to face with a bear, speak to it firmly but calmly. Wave your arms slowly or clap so that the bear will recognize you as a human.


5. Retreat slowly and quietly. Don't make eye contact with the bear.


Keep your distance


1. Don't approach bears.


2. The minimum safe distance from any bear is 50 yards at Katmai. When it is a sow with cubs, stay 100 yards away. In Denali's open country, the preferred distance is a quarter mile.


3. If you're in a bear's path, move out of the way and let it pass. Don't make noise in an effort to move the bear out of your way. Try not to walk on obvious bear or game trails with limited visibility.


4. Don't interfere with a bear's foraging.


If a bear charges


1. If a bear approaches you, don't run and don't drop your pack. Bears sometimes charge within 10 feet of a person before stopping or veering off. Dropping a pack may encourage a bear to approach people for food.


Stand still until the bear moves away, then back off.


2. If a grizzly or brown bear makes contact with you, play dead. Curl up into a ball with your knees tucked into your stomach and your hands laced around the back of your neck. Leave your pack on to protect your back. If the attack is short, the bear may think the threat is removed and will walk away, so don't move. If the attack is prolonged, however, fight back vigorously for your life.


3. If a black bear makes contact, fight back. Throw rocks, shout and wave.


Firearms and pepper spray


1. Backpackers and rafters are allowed to carry firearms on most federal land and in some national parks and preserves. (Katmai and Denali generally don't allow guns, for example, but Wrangell-St. Elias does.) The entire Katmai coastline, Brooks Camp and the Valley of 10,000 Smokes are to be firearms-free.


A .300 Magnum rifle and a shotgun with rifled slugs are considered adequate for killing a bear, experts say, but the user must be ready for a quick attack, especially in brush. A .44 Magnum handgun is often considered not powerful enough against a charging bear and may be more dangerous to the hikers than to the bear.


2. Pepper spray contains capsicum, an irritant derived from some varieties of pepper. Some people carry it, but like a firearm it must be ready to use on a moment's notice. Unlike a firearm, its effectiveness is greatly affected by wind, rain, distance to the bear and the time the can spent on a shelf. A researcher also determined that improperly applied spray may actually attract bears.


3. Having a firearm or spray may provide a false sense of security. Avoiding bear contact through smart hiking and camping practices is a better plan overall.


4. "Bear bells" -- an inch wide or more -- are a popular item among hikers, who attach them to belts, hiking sticks and packs. Researchers found that a group of bears at Katmai, however, paid no attention to bear bells jangling near a trail.


Food storage


1. Food and beverages should never be left unattended. Food and other items with odors (toothpaste, gum and so forth) should be stored in a food cache or a bear-resistant food container or suspended 10 feet off the ground.


National parks such as Katmai, Denali and Gates of the Arctic lend food containers to backpackers, and they may be rented in Anchorage. The containers, which weigh about 3 pounds, are shaped like a can and have a snug lid with a latch.


2. Keep backpacks and other gear with you. If a bear comes, it will often investigate, sometimes thoroughly, items left before it.


3. Avoid cooking greasy foods or foods that have a rich odor. For example, don't fry up a rack of bacon in bear country or open a can of sardines. Don't sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking.


4. Keep your camp clean. Pack out your garbage.


5. In campgrounds, store all the food, food containers, coolers and dirty cooking utensils in a hard-sided vehicle or in campground food-storage lockers when not in use. This is a requirement at Denali and a good idea at all campgrounds.


Bears and fishing


1. In Katmai and along streams elsewhere in the state, bears have learned to think of anglers as a source of food. Stop fishing when bears are present. If you keep a fish, take it immediately to a food storage area.


2. Always have someone "spot" bears while others fish. If you're playing a fish when a bear approaches, break your line quickly and move out of the water until the bear passes. A splashing fish often attracts a bear. To break the line quickly, lower the rod tip until it's parallel with the taut line, then pull backward quickly to snap the leader or tippet.


3. Don't clean your fish in camp.


Sources: Katmai National Park's "Bear Facts," Denali National Park's "Alpenglow" and the Anchorage Daily News.



I have never been lost. Been awful confused for a few days, but never lost!

N61.12.041 W149.43.734

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All these stories I posted are recent events up here.


They are not intended to scare anyone. There are some good things to be learned by reading these accounts. I hope that the knowlege gained by reading of such events will prevent your getting injured or killed while in bear country.



I have never been lost. Been awful confused for a few days, but never lost!

N61.12.041 W149.43.734

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Thanks, Bilder, for all the info...


Originally posted by wvabackpacker:

Okay, let me expel some myths here. It's obvious that a lot of you guys are greenhorns.


Since 1900 there have been 45 fatal bear attacks in North America


Dogs kill 20 people per year. Dogs killed more people between 1979 and 1994 than bears did in 100 years. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00047723.htm


Deer are responsible for 130 human deaths per year.




Between 1959 and 1994 Lightning has killed over 5,000 people. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/cae/svrwx/lightningdeaths.htm


In the year 2000 lightning killed more people than bears have in 100 years. http://www.wxresearch.org/press/light2002.htm


The biggest killer: Cars. In 2001 and 2002 over 43,000 people were killed in car accidents. http://www.womanmotorist.com/index.php/news/main/1864/event=view


So really...what are you people afraid of? Bears don't want anything to do with people. You're more likely to die on your way to go geocaching in a car than you are to die from a bear in the backcountry...heck, you have a greater chance of being electrocuted by lightning than attacked, killed, or maimed by a bear. Again I ask, why are you people still afraid of bears? Start fearing what's more likely to kill you like a DEER or a car.



I'm not saying we should kill all the stupid people in the world. I'm just saying that we should remove all the warning labels from everything and let the problem take care of itself. http://jeremy.qn.net/<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


WVA, your post sounds a lot like the anti-gun argument about crime rates. It goes something like - "The odds of a criminal killing you are much lower than drowning, car crash, falling, etc, so why be concerned enough to prepare to fight back?"


Problem with this is it doesn't take crimes averted by use of counterviolence (or threat thereof) into account. And just because no one or nothing is killed does not mean there was no attack or emminent attack (or crippling injuries).


Further, it is clear you are no statistician. When comparing the rate of events, you also have to compare exposure. There are far fewer bears in NYC than in Alaska, or even Idaho. And there are far fewer people in the Alaska (or Idaho) outback than in NYC (or substitute the US, as a whole, per square mile for both cases, if you wish). Further, the vast majority of us spend far more time in our cars than in dangerous game habitat (yes, I said "game" - so sue me). And the reference to deer causing deaths was cute, but I know that stat is mostly auto accidents. Come on...


The fact is, we tend to prepare for what we can - if we have a Boy Scout mentality. If we don't, we tend to rationalize our lack of preparedness. It really is no big deal to carry a handgun or peper spray. I doubt, however, whether many of us have the ability to stop trees from falling in Yellowstone park (oh yeah, we could always restrict our camping to FLAT and BARE places - sure...), or to stop lightening from striking. So again, you are talking apples to oranges.


And BTW - you "expel" hot air (sorry, couldn't resist icon_wink.gif ). You "dispel" a myth.


Now, your sig line....I can go along with that. icon_smile.gif


"...clear as mud?"

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One more thing.


It is a mistake to believe that all bears act alike im similar circumstances. All such "rules" WILL be broken. Just as there are people with aberrant behaiviour, the same exists (though, not at the same rate) with all higher animals. Never assume that if you do "x" the bear (dog, badger, person, whatever...) will do "y".


So what has this to do with geocaching? Is it a good idea to educate yourself on the application, selection, and use of pepper sprays, for carry while caching? (per original thread subject)


I say - yes.


"...clear as mud?"

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I didn't know that about 44s. It was my understaning that you packed one for bush work in Alaska for the bears. Then again working with a rifle is rather a pain and the sidearm can be carried while you work. Just saw the 500 magnum. I think that pistol is a good test for weak bones. If your arm breaks when you shoot it you have Osterio Perosis. (hacked spelling)


My couson works in Prudoe on occasion. They watch for Polar Bears. This is because too Polar Bears people are not just a source of food; they are food.


Searching_ut, as much as I hate bears I'm in agreement. A Cougar attack is more likely. When I lived in WA there were a lot of them going on.

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I backpack regularly in the Smokys. The bears there have become fairly habituated to humans. This is a bad thing. Frankly, as miniscule as the chances are of me getting attacked in the deep forest while packing, I'm still carrying something to at least TRY to defend my life. Pepper or gunpowder, I don't care. And ya I know that gunpowder is illegal in the Natl Parks.


I wonder if someone might make a "pop" gun for scaring off an attack. Something like a flashbang maybe. Now wouldn't that be interesting. You know you are in very deep dood dood, if one of those don't run off a bear.


Oh and good thread!

Maxpedition Hard Use Nylon Gear

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clearpath wrote:

No, but bears are attracted to people that...

Now, was that really necessary? Do you have proof of this outrageous remark? Personally, I've never met anyone with brains of the type you mention, although I suspect that your answer comes close to proving that they do exist.


I asked the question because I don't know the answer. Apparently, neither do you.



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In answer to Jomarac5's question regarding bears and women at certain times, I've seen different advice in different backpacking forums. Yellowstone park seems to be good collectors and compilers of bear data for the sort of bears you might encounter in the lowere 48, so I copied this from the NPS Yellowstone website regarding bears:


Considering bears' highly developed sense of smell, it may seem logical that they could be attracted to odors associated with menstruation. Studies on this subject are few and inconclusive. If a woman chooses to hike or camp in bear country during menstruation, a basic precaution should be to wear internal tampons, not external pads. Used tampons should be double-bagged in a zip-lock type bag and stored the same as garbage.



Here is a good link where you can get quite a bit of info on the subject, as well as some data from the park on bear attacks



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Originally posted by Jomarac5:

Now, was that really necessary? Do you have proof of this outrageous remark? Personally, I've never met anyone with brains of the type you mention ...


Relax Canada, I was just poking fun at your inquisitive curiosity (pardon the redundancy). Although, we managed to chase off almost all the bears from Missouri/Kansas area long ago, I have read that bear attacks are most often directed at individuals that provoke, surprise, or approach the young of the bear in question. So, there is my proof.


[This message was edited by clearpath on July 30, 2003 at 07:40 AM.]

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A park ranger once told me..... ... ...:



posted July 29, 2003 03:25 AM



A park ranger in Yellowstone national park once told me "...the best defense against a face-to-face black bear is to sock him in the nose.."


==============="If it feels good...do it"================


**(the other 9 out of 10 voices in my head say: "Don't do it.")**



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Originally posted by wvabackpacker:


The top paragraph caught my attention:


Bear pepper spray is no substitute for appropriate conduct in bear country. It should only be relied on as a last resort and if you are typical of the vast majority of outdoor enthusiasts, you will never need to rely on it to resolve a bear-human encounter.


It also stated that during a study, bear spray was quite effective, however, in three cases the _bears attacked after being sprayed in the face_. Two of the attacks were encounters with sow and cub.


Also, _firearms_ don't increase your chances very much. According to the 14 year study, 44 people _carrying firearms were fatally wounded_. 56 individuals carrying nothing were also fatally wounded. _Just because you have pepper spray or a gun doesn't mean you'll live._



[sigh]Why would you compare the effectiveness of a spray (using it) with the mere presence of a firearm (using it and not using it) OTHER than to skew the results? Why not compare bear attacks thwarted by pepper spray with those thwarted by guns? (because the "fix" is in to disuade firearm ownership and use by any means necessary, I suspect).


Funny how the article points out the loud noise of the pepper spray as being an effective means of scaring the bear (and the added confidence of the person standing their ground). I guess guns don't do that even better? icon_rolleyes.gif


But that would mean saying something positive about guns and that is no longer acceptable from the media or government (I have seen news on tv TWICE where they were reporting on a murder and had a handgun sillouette over the anchorperson's shoulder......when the person had been stabbed to death.... Yeah, no effort there to push an agenda. Meanwhile crimes thwarted by guns go practically unreported.)

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Originally posted by Bilder:

Bear attacks happen so fast that to be effective one's shooting must be instinctive. There is no time to take careful aim.



Here, too, we have a case of BS passing as news. If you are within range of pepper spray being effecting, you aren't going to need to do much aiming with a shotgun.


The reason aiming is even an issue is for LONGER range which is not an issue for pepper spray because it DOESN'T HAVE THE RANGE.


So, a disadvantage of the spray is twisted into an advantage. Clever, eh?

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Originally posted by SamLowrey:

Also, _firearms_ don't increase your chances very much. According to the 14 year study, 44 people _carrying firearms were fatally wounded_. 56 individuals carrying nothing were also fatally wounded. _Just because you have pepper spray or a gun doesn't mean you'll live._



[sigh]Why would you compare the effectiveness of a spray (using it) with the mere presence of a firearm (using it and not using it) OTHER than to skew the results? Why not compare bear attacks thwarted by pepper spray with those thwarted by guns? (because the "fix" is in to disuade firearm ownership and use by any means necessary, I suspect).


Funny how the article points out the loud noise of the pepper spray as being an effective means of scaring the bear (and the added confidence of the person standing their ground). I guess guns don't do that even better? icon_rolleyes.gif



Note they admit firearms can help, just not "very much."


Remember, if you're pushing agendas (this works for both sides), downplay ANY improvement the offending item/concept truly offers, then stand on any infintesimal improvements your agenda provides like they were the freakin' Rock of Gibralter!


I'll happily take the improved chances of surviving, even if it isn't "very much."



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The Colorado State Department of Fish and Wildlife is advising hikers, hunters, fishermen, and golfers to take extra precautions and be on the alert for bears while in the Dillon, Breckenridge, and Keystone area.


They advise people to wear noise-producing devices such as little bells on their clothing to alert but not startle the bears unexpectedly.


They also advise you to carry pepper spray in case of an encounter with a bear. It is also a good idea to watch for signs of bear activity.


People should be able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear droppings.


Black bear droppings are smaller and contain berries and possibly squirrel fur.


Grizzly bear droppings have bells in them and smell like pepper spray


Took sun from sky, left world in eternal darkness bandbass.gif

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