Three young adults are recovering after a grizzly sow with cubs mauled them early Wednesday afternoon. The young adults were hiking on a trail along the river near the Eagle River campground. They suffered non-life threatening injuries.
Anchorage Police say the first call came in just after noon. The four hikers, two girls and two boys– one of which was a minor– became separated after the attack. Three people, including the juvenile, were bitten and clawed by the sow. Around 30 units from APD and AFD responded to the campground.
“We had phone contact with two or three of them and so, we were trying to figure out where they were at by using sirens and noises and by having them holler and us holler at them,” said APD Sgt. Cam Hokenson.
Officers found all four hikers and brought them to safety. Ambulances were on hand to take them to the hospital for treatment. While officers were searching, the sow again attacked.
“Two of the other officers were attacked by the sow and they ended up firing their shotguns at it, and it’s unknown if we hit the bear at this time. We don’t think we did,” said Hokenson.
Alaska Fish and Game biologists responded and started searching for the sow. Representative Ken Marsh said they found a small amount of blood near where the officers had fired shots and followed the trail for a few hours, but, couldn’t catch up to the sow. They were hoping to observe her behavior.
“If it’s a one-time type of thing, they may go ahead and let it take off into the wilderness and hopefully we won’t see or hear from it again. If they determine there are signs of aggression, if it’s bluff charging them or charging them, they may decide to take the sow,” said Marsh.
If they do end up putting her down, they would determine the age of the cubs and if they can survive on their own. If they are too young, Fish and Game would try to capture them and place them in a facility, said Marsh.
Matthew Kirby and his family are planning to spend a few nights at Eagle River Campground. They didn’t know anything had happened until the emergency vehicles arrived.
“It was impressive how many resources they had so quickly,” he said. “It’s a little concerning when you hear about a large group of kids and this happening so we were just talking about it — we’re going to stay closer to our campground.”
Kirby, his wife and four kids said they usually feel safe hiking around because they’re a large group and they make lots of noise.
Young Rylin Kirby said he doesn’t blame the bear, but, he is going to take extra steps to be safe.
“She wants to take good care of her cubs and she doesn’t want her clubs to get hurt,” said Rylin. “We’re going to bring all of our food in and we’re going to be keeping our eyes open.”
— Bonney Bowman (@BonneyBowman) June 14, 2017
The Eagle River Campground has signs posted all around, warning people to be bear aware and keep their campsites clean and free of trash. A black bear was also spotted in the campground after the attack, highlighting the importance of staying alert.
An earlier version of this story referred to the victims as teens and juveniles. APD updated that information to reflect three young adults and one juvenile.