Mystery Mammal Mauls Man in Gates of the Arctic
A backpacker in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve was bitten on the hand last week by what he suspects was a bear, though he never actually saw the animal that bit him through his tent.
FAIRBANKS - A backpacker in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve was bitten on the hand last week by what he suspects was a bear, though he never actually saw the animal that bit him through his tent.
Kurt Skoog, 55, of Glennallen was camping along Easter Creek, about 40 miles west of Anaktuvuk Pass in the Brooks Range when an animal struck the outside of his tent at around 2:30 a.m. July 16, he told National Park Service rangers.
When Skoog raised his hand against the tent, the animal took his hand and held it for a few seconds, he said. When Skoog attempted to pull his hand back, the animal bit it. Skoog then "played dead" and the animal left after about 30 seconds. He heard the animal cross the creek.
Skoog packed his gear and hiked about a dozen miles to Agiak Lake, where he reported the incident to park employees.
Skoog declined assistance and continued hiking more than 30 miles to Anaktuvuk Pass, arriving three days later. He received medical treatment before flying to Fairbanks and going to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where he was treated and released.
While Skoog never actually saw the animal that bit him and wasn't able to find any tracks on the gravel bar outside his tent, Gates of the Arctic Chief Ranger Gary Youngblood said "more than likely" it was a bear, based on the nature of the bite and pictures of the damaged tent.
"It's pretty straightforward to me," he said.
The only other possibility is that it was a wolf, Youngblood said.
Skoog told Youngblood the animal bit through his tent and sleeping bag because there was blood inside the sleeping bag.
Rangers will look for bears in the area, if they happen to be flying there, but Youngblood said "we are not putting huge effort into following up on this."
The incident happened a week ago and chances of finding tracks now are slim, the ranger said.
A message left for Skoog at his Glennallen home Thursday afternoon was not returned.
Skoog was keeping his food in a bear-proof container that he borrowed from the park service, as is required in Gates of the Arctic. Skoog said he might have had some food outside the container, but the animal did not get any food.
Rangers are putting signs up in visitor centers warning other hikers and backpackers that a bear was reported in the area, Youngblood said.
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.