View Full Version : Alaska predatory black bear attack!

07-23-2003, 23:18

Black Bear Stalks, Tries to Make Meal Out of Forest Worker

Anchorage Daily News
(Published: July 20, 2003)

Armed only with a big stick, U.S. Forest Service recreation technician Jeff Nissman last week waged a successful, hour-long, running battle with a black bear along the California Creek Trail in the Girdwood Valley.

Over the course of the encounter, Nissman repeatedly clubbed the bear. That drove it back, but did not curb its interest. The bear, according to Nissman, refused to give up the chase until the man reached the regularly trafficked Crow Creek Road.

"That was pretty odd,'' area wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said later.

But not unprecedented.

The bear behavior Nissman detailed in a report he posted for Forest Service employees on the Internet parallels other accounts of predatory black bears. Sinnott said he is concerned enough about this incident that he plans to hike the California Creek Trail himself to see if the bear is still hanging around, acting oddly.

Nissman, meanwhile, is frank about his own feelings regarding this particular black bear.

"If I had a gun, as we carry at work, there would be one very dead bear,'' the young hiker wrote.

Nissman has reasons to feel this way. The aggressiveness of the bear leaves the impression that it might have been sizing up the hiker as lunch.

In writing about "The Predaceous Black Bear'' in the book "Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance,'' Canadian wildlife biologist Stephen Herrero notes, "Warning signals of aggressive intent by black bears have seldom been reported to precede cases of apparent predation. Instead, a typical predation scenario might involve the bear slowly approaching a person during the day, perhaps partly circling and then rushing toward the person, trying to knock the intended prey down and inflicting injuries with jaws or paws and claws.''

Compare that to Nissman's account of meeting a pair of black bears, apparently siblings, a mile and a half from Crow Creek Road:

"I ran into these guys who were a little too interested in me. I waited for a while and then started making a lot of noise and yelling at them, but they didn't move.

"This was starting to get me concerned. ... Usually when you see two or more bears, it is a sow with cubs, which can be very dangerous. Also they could be recently abandoned 2- to 3-year-old cubs figuring out their position for dominance.

"When one of the bears slowly started walking in my direction and ignoring all my yelling, I decided to slowly start backing off and heading back in the direction I came....I made maybe 150 yards into the thick woods when I heard the bear charging through the woods at me."

Having undergone Forest Service bear training, he knew this was not a good sign.

"If predation is the motive for an attack,'' Herrero writes, "the attack typically continues until the bear is forced to back down or the person gets away or the bear gets its prey."

Nissman didn't want to become prey.

"I jumped up on a tree's root wad and made myself as big as I could,'' he wrote, "and started yelling at the bear. It stopped just behind the next tree. It was popping its jaw (a sign of aggression) and was kinda watching me from behind the tree. We were at a standstill for about five minutes doing this, and I snapped ... two photos but didn't have that steady of a hand.

"After that, my camera was in my pocket for the rest of the ordeal. (Then) I heard the other bear crashing around in the woods toward us about 100 yards away. It was huffing and watching. I thought maybe since we were at a standstill for a while now that I could slowly start making my way away from the bear, but as soon as I left the tree and slowly started backing off, the bear would charge at me till I jumped on a log and started yelling at it.

"The bear would just stop and make noises at me. I was breaking off branches throwing them at the bear, but it didn't seem to bother him. This went on for a few more times ... while making my way slowly toward the main trail. I finally realized the only way to stop the bear from coming toward me was to charge at it.

"I had stopped throwing sticks at the bear and had a large branch in my hand. I would go after the bear swinging, and it would back off, then lean up against a tree and think about climbing it. Then I would swing the stick and whack the bear in the (rear end), and it would climb up the tree. I would make more noise and whack at his feet and the tree (until) he went higher up the tree. Then, when the bear was high up in a tree, I would head toward the trail.

"The bear would climb down the tree and chase full speed after me. Then I would do the same thing. I was slowly making ground toward the main trail. When I hit the main trail, I continued doing this, but the bear stopped climbing the trees and just would back off as I was swinging at it, then turn and come after me. I finally made it to the road, and the bear didn't follow me anymore.

"I got pretty cut up and sprained my knee while doing this through the thick woods."

The encounter also ended up costing Nissman the seat on the mountain bike he'd left at the trail head.

"I'd left it there, as I was a little busy just trying to get out of there,'' he wrote. "When I went back to pick up my bike, the seat was chewed up by a bear. I have had many bear encounters here in Alaska, and this was the first time one followed me and chased me around the woods.''

Had he decided to play dead -- the recommended procedure when a brown bear attacks -- he might be dead.

Anytime a black bear "appears to be pressing an attack,'' Herrero writes, "then the unarmed person should either try to escape to a nearby hard-sided shelter or fight back. Heavy objects such as axes, stout pieces of wood or rocks are possible weapons. They can be used to hit a bear on the head with the hope of stunning it and causing it to leave. Other aggressive actions by a person might include kicking, hitting with a fist, yelling or shouting at the bear, or banging objects such as pots together in front of a bear's face."

This advice is strictly for black bears. Attacking grizzly bears, whether you are armed or unarmed, is generally not a good idea, which is why Herrero suggests that the first step toward safety in bear country -- and all of Alaska is bear country -- is learning to be able to recognize black bears from grizzly bears in the blink of an eye.

Daily News Outdoor editor Craig Medred can be reached at cmedred@adn.com.

07-24-2003, 00:16
Here's a link to pics this guy took of his hike and the bears as they were coming at him:


Blue Jay
07-24-2003, 07:40
Yet another good reason to hide under your bed and leave the woods to me.

07-24-2003, 07:50
Interesting that the guy who actually dealt with the bears entitled the incident "Sketchy Bear Encounter". The plagiarist that sensationalized this incident re-titled it "Predatory Bear Attack". At any reputable paper, Craig Medred would be fired for what he did.

BTW, for those of you who are geographically challenged, Alaska is West of the Mississippi River. Last I checked, the AT did not pass through this area.

The one bit of helpful info in this post is, if a Black Bear should charge you, NEVER, NEVER run or play dead. Act aggressive, get loud, make yourself look big.

If you do manage to get yourself mauled or eaten by a black bear on the AT, look at the bright side... You'll be famous, because it has happened only a handful of times east of the Mississippi. That either makes you REALLY dumb, REALLY unlucky, or both.

07-24-2003, 09:27
I have come to understand that my participation in this forum is counter productive. In an attempt to ammend this I am deleting my posts and have requested to have my account deleted