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5,218 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Mike is someone I've done a lot of surveying with up here. He works for the BLM.

Bear mauls hunter on Hinchinbrook
SKETCHY: Anchorage man reportedly hospitalized after sow with cub attacked him.

By Craig Medred
Anchorage Daily News

(Published: November 27, 2002)
An Anchorage deer hunter was reported to be in a hospital here Tuesday after being attacked by a brown bear on Hinchinbrook Island west of Cordova, but details were sketchy.
Alaska State Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson identified the hunter as 36-year-old Michael Harmening, a surveyor who lives on the Hillside. A woman who answered the phone at Harmening's home Tuesday confirmed that he'd been mauled by a bear and said that he was at Providence Alaska Medical Center.
The Alaska Air National Guard reported delivering him there after a helicopter evacuation from Hinchinbrook to Cordova, and a flight by a C-130 aircraft to Anchorage late Monday.
A Providence nursing supervisor, however, said there appeared to be no record of treating Harmening. Neither of Anchorage's other hospitals reported him as a patient, either.
State Fish and Wildlife Protection officers were on their way to Hinchinbrook Island Tuesday to try to figure out what happened. Wilkinson said it appears Harmening might have been attacked by a sow and a nearly grown cub around midday Monday.
"The sow is dead," Wilkinson said.
The Fish and Wildlife Protection office in Cordova and area wildlife biologist Dave Crowley with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said no one knew what had happened to what was reported to be a 2-year-old cub with the sow.
Wilkinson said Harmening told a trooper in Cordova that he'd been charged by the cub, and snapped off a "hip shot" in its direction.
"He's not sure whether he hit it or not," Wilkinson said.
Air National Guard Sgt. Kenneth Bellamy, one of several people involved in evacuating Harmening from Hinchinbrook, said the hunter was with a friend when they stumbled into a sow and a cub.
The sow, Bellamy said, "just grabbed him by the leg and flung him."
It was after that, Bellamy added, that Harmening and his friend apparently killed the bear and begun trying to summon help. The short-range radios the men had were just good enough to reach from a Forest Service cabin on the east side of the island to the fishing vessel Morning Thunder at Johnstone Point.
Vessel owner Michael Glasen said he used another radio on his boat to relay a call to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard notified the Air National Guard.
"I don't know very much," Glasen said. "We just helped those folks at the cabin communicate with the Coast Guard. I didn't actually meet those folks, so I didn't see firsthand."
Fish and Wildlife troopers had yet to complete an investigation of the incident. It is legal to shoot a bear in self-defense in Alaska, but a defense of life and property report must be filed, and the hunter is required by law to salvage the hide and skull for the state.
No report had been filed Tuesday. Given that Harmening was hurt, troopers said they were going to try to take care of skinning the bear. The state usually sells the hides at an annual auction.
Crowley, the wildlife biologist, noted that brown bears on Hinchinbrook Island are usually in their dens by now. Sows with cubs are also usually the first to take refuge for the winter.
"But we're having such a balmy fall and winter," Crowley said. "There are still bears roaming around here and there."
"It is so warm it is astounding," added Cordova's Glasen. "It is an amazing thing. With these temperatures staying up, maybe these bears don't know" it's time to den.
The temperature in Cordova on Tuesday was pushing 50 degrees, more like September than November.

5,218 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Mike's interview with the Anchorage Daily News

Attacking bear was a blur of fur
HUNTING: Anchorage man fends off both mom and cub on Hinchinbrook Island.

By Craig Medred
Anchorage Daily News

(Published: November 28, 2002)
The bear came from nowhere to grab Mike Harmening by the leg as he slipped along the edge of a Hinchinbrook Island muskeg Monday looking for Sitka blacktail deer.

One minute he was the hunter. The next he found himself in the position of prey.

"I swear to God, I just saw a flash, and I was on the ground," the 36-year-old Anchorage surveyor said Wednesday from home, where he is recovering from bite wounds to his calf and knee.

Harmening doesn't know -- and no one ever will -- whether he stumbled into a pair of grizzly bears in a thicket, woke a couple of bears settling in for hibernation, or worse.

"I startled them as much as they startled me," Harmening said. "Either that, or they were stalking me."

Harmening, whose job often takes him into the wilds of Alaska, prefers not to think the latter. The recorded instances of brown bears stalking humans are rare. Far more common are chance encounters between people and bears that end badly.

This one had all the main ingredients for that to happen, Harmening said.

"I was deer hunting. I was being quiet in the woods," he said. "It was a windy day. I was going through some thickets. There was some yellow cedar just on the fringe of this muskeg."

Everything was prime for Harmening to unknowingly sneak up on a pair of grizzly bears even if that was the last thing he was trying to do.

"The day before," Harmening said, "we'd seen a big buck up there."

He and hunting partner Marshal Wade of Anchorage were hoping they could find that buck again as they worked into the wind through dense forest and thickets a mile or two from the U.S. Forest Service's Double Bay cabin on Hinchinbrook.

The hunters had plenty of natural noise to cover their movements.

"It was blowing about 40 mph," Harmening said. "It was really, really noisy."

The wind noise covered any warning sound the bear might have made before the attack -- a woof, the popping of teeth, at least the sound of heavy footfalls on the forest floor.

Harmening heard nothing and didn't see much.

"I really didn't see her," he said. "I saw her a split second before, and I threw my leg up."

The sow grizzly grabbed him by the right leg and pulled him to the ground. It let go for only a fraction of a second to grab a better grip on Harmening's leg just above the knee.

By then, the hunter was finally getting the .338-caliber Magnum rifle he'd been carrying pointed in the direction of the bear.

"I had a bullet chambered," he said. "My hand was on the safety when the whole thing happened."

Despite being that close to ready to fire, he wasn't able to get a shot off until the bear had him by the leg. Everything happened that fast.

And Harmening doesn't know where his first shot went.

"I was being spun around," he said. "Where I shot, I can't say. It did make her let go of me."

The bear turned and fled. Harmening saw that there was another bear, a cub almost as big as the sow. Although the attack left him confused about the position of the cub, he thought the two animals would flee. That is the norm, and Harmening had seen the norm underlined time and again in his years working in the woods.

"I honestly thought she was leaving the scene," he said. "She went about 30 feet away."

Then, the bear stopped, turned and charged back. Harmening, still shooting from the hip, pointed the .338 in the bear's direction and pulled the trigger. There wasn't time, he said, to shoulder the gun and take aim.

The second bullet, he knows, hit the bear, because it crumpled. A final shot in its skull ensured it wouldn't attack again.

Harmening started screaming for Wade, who was about 40 yards away and downhill. Then the cub charged.

"I was in that high adrenaline stage," Harmening said, "and I fired at her."

He has no idea whether that bear was hit. He does know that it turned, fled and never came back. Alaska Fish and Wildlife Protection troopers are still trying to determine if the bear was injured. Unless it is gravely wounded, they will leave it alone. Bears in the wild commonly survive what people would consider massive injuries.

By the time Wade, who was still on Hinchinbrook Island Wednesday, got to Harmening, one bear was dead, the second bear was gone, and Harmening was in rough shape.

"If he hadn't been there," Harmening said, "I don't know what. . . . I was disoriented for about 15 minutes."

Wade started helping his hunting buddy back toward the cabin about a mile and a half away. They had a marine radio there.

Fortunately, Harmening said, "it was a lot of downhill, and I could slide on my butt. I was bleeding constant, but it was a real slow bleed. There was a lot of muscle damage, but no arteries" had been hit.

By 1 p.m., the two men were back at the public-use cabin, and Wade was stoking the fire. Harmening was in pain, but found a warm, secure cabin comforting.

He knew then that he would be fine.

"I knew I wasn't bleeding out," he said. "If I was bleeding out, I was dead, and I wasn't bleeding out. I just wanted to get it clean."

The two men decided the best thing to do was see if they could find help to get Harmening to a hospital. Wade got on channel 16 -- the VHF radio emergency channel -- and put out a plea for help. It was answered by Michael Glasen aboard the fishing vessel Morning Thunder off the north tip of the island about 25 miles west of Cordova.

Glasen relayed the report to the Coast Guard in Valdez. The Coast Guard summoned a rescue helicopter from the Kulis Air National Guard base in Anchorage.

The rescue, Harmening said, seemed like overkill, but he will be eternally grateful.

"I was a little surprised," he said. "I felt bad they had to come in there. I would have rather (someone sent) a boat from Cordova."

The hunter doesn't feel good about exposing rescuers to flying in dense fog to come and get him.

"It was zero (visibility)," Harmening said. "I wouldn't have willingly got in the helicopter. (But) they did a marvelous job, an excellent job."

The Kulis Pave Hawk lifted Harmening to Cordova in minutes. A C-130 fixed-wing airplane, also from Kulis, was there waiting with its engines warmed up. By 9 p.m. Monday evening, Harmening was being rolled into surgery in an Anchorage hospital.

He considers himself a lucky man.

"Just my right leg is the only damage I incurred," he said, "and my neck is stiff. The biggest shock to me was when she first grabbed me, and I fired off that first shot. I thought she was gone. ... When she turned and came back, I remember thinking, 'It's over.' "

It was for the bear, but not for him.

Doctors say Harmening will walk again, though it will be a while. Still, he is hoping to be on skis for the Tour of Anchorage ski marathon in March. His wife, Marcia, gave him new skate skis for his birthday in the fall. He's hoping that maybe he can be making the first tentative steps on them by the time Anchorage finally gets snow.

As for the deer hunting, Harmening's not sure when he's going back to that.

"I'm almost exclusively a deer hunter," he said, "but right now, I've lost a lot my enthusiasm for it. ... I go hunting late in the year because these things are supposed to be hibernating.

"I'm still processing it all. A lot of people assume you did something wrong. I went deer hunting."

The only way to avoid this would have been to stay home. Harmening has been thinking about that a lot.

"That's the only thing I might have done differently," he said.

5,218 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I'm not sure if Mike is a subscriber to any sites. Lots of surveyors here in AK, though. Mike has been an inspector for the BLM for a while now. He a hard worker, something of a rarity over there these days.

13 Posts
Thats what they said on the other site!

It was either Yukonjack or dabigmoose on the other site that said the same thing about Mike. That he was a surveyor and worked for BLM. Has to be the same guy. I think he used to post on Greay Beards site with a bunch of us.

5,218 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'm going to do my best to talk with Mike this week and find out how he's doing. I've shared a few campfires and adventures with him, I hope to continue to do so. I'll post how he's doing after I talk to him.

5,218 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I spoke with a couple of friends who visited Mike over the weekend and he is doing fine. It may take him a while to get full use of his legs, but there was no nerve or tendon damage. Apparently they surprised a sow and her older cub on a kill and were charged. One bite to his thigh deflected off of his femur (luckily didn't penetrate or break the femur, just glanced off of it) and there are no signs of infection. From what I can gather, he killed the sow after she dropped him and came back charging.
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