Alaskans understand that bear attacks are a part of life in the Last Frontier. But most of the time, a single bear is the culprit. But this week, deer hunters on Kodiak Island encountered multiple bears in separate attacks. U.S. Coast Guard officers came to the rescue of the hunters:
A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew medevaced an injured 65-year-old man near Kodiak, Tuesday.
The Jayhawk crew safely transported the hunter to Kodiak Municipal Airport where he was transferred to awaiting emergency medical services.
Coast Guard 17th District watchstanders received a call from the master of the fishing vessel Mary J who reported that a group of hunters had been attacked by a sloth of bears and one hunter needed immediate medical assistance.
The duty flight surgeon recommended a medevac and a flight corpsman to accompany the Jayhawk helicopter crew to the scene.
The master of the fishing vessel reported that he had transported the hunters to Sally Island and was waiting nearby for the hunters to return when the attack took place. The bears had come upon the hunters while they were carrying a deer they shot. No other hunters were injured.
“These hunters were extremely prepared for the environment and circumstances they found themselves in,” said Lt. j.g. Joseph Schlosser, operational unit watchstander, Coast Guard 17th District. “The fact that there were five bears was an abnormality and this serves as a reminder that anything can happen and we need to be aware of our surroundings.”
The Alaska Dispatch provided more details on the incident:
Michael Snowden and 38-year-old Jeff Ostrin, of Camas, Washington, set out to hunt deer Tuesday on Sally Island, a small island in Uganik Bay. Shortly before encountering the first bear, the two men walked through dense vegetation on the east side of the island, roughly 30 miles from Kodiak. Behind them, they dragged the carcass of a deer, said Nathan Svoboda, an area wildlife biologist with Fish and Game.
Svoboda — relaying information from an interview he conducted with Ostrin — said the men began traversing down a hill. About a quarter of the way down, they dropped their packs, walked about 20 feet farther and prepared to eat lunch.
“They pulled out sandwiches, took a couple of bites and heard rustling in the brush,” Svoboda said. “They chambered a bullet and almost immediately a sow charged out of the brush and attacked.”
According to the skipper of a nearby fishing vessel, who said he could see the men from shore, the sow was traveling with two large cubs. The bears “basically winded the deer and the sow bolted, as the skipper put it, ‘like a Tasmanian devil’ — running and charging through the brush headed for the deer and obviously the hunters,” Svoboda said.
The sow attacked Snowden, biting and scratching at his body. Ostrin stepped back a few feet and fired a bullet from his rifle into the bear’s hindquarters and then again into its chest. Ostrin told Svoboda that Snowden and the sow rolled down the hill where they briefly separated and Ostrin shot the bear a third time, killing the animal.
Ostrin checked on Snowden and then walked back up the hill to grab their packs. He used their radio to call the fishing vessel that had originally taken the pair to the island to hunt. Ostrin asked the skipper to contact the U.S. Coast Guard, Svoboda said.
Then, a second bear appeared out of the brush. Svoboda said it is believed to be one of the cubs, which he estimated was about 2-3 years old. Ostrin shot and killed it with a pistol.