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Teen survives brown bear mauling
TUSTUMENA LAKE: Cody Williams requires 38 staples to close head wound.


By LISA DEMER
Anchorage Daily News

(Published: May 14, 2003)
The pain wasn't registering yet, but Cody Williams could hear the damage as the bear clawed and chewed on him.

"I thought I was going to die, pretty much," Williams, 17, said Tuesday from his home in Kasilof, where he was recovering from a broken hand and numerous punctures and gashes after a bear mauling Sunday.

He was attacked by a brown bear while hunting black bear near Tustumena Lake on the Kenai Peninsula.

"I heard chomping or jaws or just the sound of it, the teeth (raking) the skull. It's kind of weird. It's like you can hear through the skull," he said in a telephone interview.

Before the attack by the sow, Williams said, one of her cubs charged him. He shot and killed it.

He and a friend, Matt Weaver, both juniors at Skyview High School in Soldotna, had spent Saturday night at a public use cabin in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Williams said he has years of exploring the outdoors in Montana and now Alaska, where his family runs the Crooked Creek RV Park. But he said he mainly hunted deer and "small critters." He had never killed a bear.

Sunday morning, the teenagers scouted around for moose antlers, found a few, got lost around a swamp, and made their way back to the lake. They hooked up with an adult friend of Weaver's family that afternoon to hunt black bear, which are in season in the refuge.

The trio staked out a meadow on the lake's north side, about 11/2 miles west of Bear Creek. They climbed trees to get a better look. It was raining, so after a while Williams climbed down from his cottonwood. He intended to take shelter under a nearby spruce tree.

As an airplane flew over low, Weaver spotted a brown bear that stood up, said Rob Barto, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer who is investigating the mauling.

It was a sow with two cubs, and they were walking toward Weaver. He made some grunting sounds to scare them.

"They ambled off and they ambled off right toward where Cody was sitting," Barto said.

Williams said he could hear the bears rustling around. He readied his .30-06-caliber rifle. One of the cubs charged him, Williams said. He fired a single shot from about 10 yards away. It went through the cub's right front shoulder and killed the bear, a 2-year-old female, Barto said.

The sow kept coming.

Williams started backing up, slowly at first. He wanted to get up the cottonwood tree. From about 10 yards away, he took off running for it.

From his perch, Weaver took in the danger.

"He saw Cody running down the hill as fast as he could and the brown bear behind him," Barto said.

Williams said he was trying to climb up the tree when the sow got to him.

"She grabs me and throws me down on the ground. She was on me," Williams said. The bear gnawed and clawed at his hand, his arm, his legs and his face. He covered his neck and head with his hands.

Weaver fired a shot over the bear and it released Williams, who shouted at Weaver to keep shooting, that he was bit, Barto said.

The sow turned back toward Williams. He had dropped his rifle but now had his .44-caliber revolver out. He unloaded all six shots at the brown bear, which lumbered away.

Williams reloaded as he walked toward Weaver. A bone was protruding from his hand, so he poked it back into place. Nothing hurt too bad, yet, he said. The adult with them, Scott Oldenburg, had gotten to the teens by then and called 911 on a cell phone. He loaded Williams into his skiff and got him to the dock, where paramedics were waiting.

Oldenburg, who was the farthest from the attack, told Barto that "all he heard was the one shot, the blood curdling scream and the six quick shots."

Williams was treated at Central Peninsula General Hospital. He needed 38 staples to close the wound in his head. His left hand still needs to be seen by a specialist. He suffered deep puncture wounds to his legs and left arm. But he'll be fine, his father said.

The sow may survive, too. Barto and others did a foot search and fly overs in a plane and a helicopter. They saw no blood or any trace of the bear. They also found no evidence of bear baiting, which is not allowed in the refuge.

There are about 250 to 300 brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula, so few that in recent years no brown bear hunting has been allowed, said Bruce Bartley, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. But shooting one in defense of life or property is perfectly legal, he said.

Bears maul about a half dozen people a year in Alaska. Every two or three years, someone gets killed. It's almost always a brown bear trying to eliminate a threat, Bartley said.

The best advice? Stay in the open. Make noise. If a brown bear attacks, drop down, play dead and protect your neck. If a black bear attacks, fight back, Bartley said.

If the bear had wanted to kill him, it would have, Williams said.

He knew not to run, but didn't want to shoot the brown bear. In hindsight, though, he said he should have stood his ground with his gun at the ready.

"He made instant decisions that he will carry scars the rest of his life for," Barto said. "No one knows how you will react in a stressful situation until you get in the situation."

As for Williams, his advice is to carry a sidearm and be cautious. "Don't try to second-guess a bear, I guess," he said.
 

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Alyeska, dint something like this happen in the early 70's. It seems the story goes a game warden and his wife were camping at Tustumena lake and a grizz bear ripped into the tent and grabbed the guy. After playing dead the bear left him and waundered off and the wardens wife got him to the hospital in Soldotna. The bear had ripped off most of his scalp and left some nasty bite marks on his arms. It seems if I recall right the guys name was Don Thompson, but not really sure. Have fished Tustumena lake many times, but get off it if the winds start up as it gets nasty. All the times I was there fishing had my 45/70 and 44 mag with me, never saw a grizz but a couple of black bears. One of the first things I learned when I was a CHACHKO(sp), dont try to out run a bear, you cant do it up or down hill, let alone the flats.

Gun Runner
 

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Yeah, it did. That guy was a real Alaskan. They don't make people like that anymore. He's a legend, and dang if I can't remember the guy's name, but will look it up for you.

About 2 years ago in the dead of winter, there was a team of geologists doing some seismic work in that vicinity and woke a hibernating bear. The bear burst from the snow, grabbed one of the geologist by the head and actually had enough jaw strength to crush the man's skull. He died.

If you are looking for some good bear stories, check out Larry Kanuit's books and Stephen Herero's "Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance" or something like that.
 

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From the Peninsula Clarion

Teen bear-ly escapes attack
By MARCUS K. GARNER
Peninsula Clarion

As Mother's Days go, Sunday wasn't the greatest for one Kenai Peninsula mother. And another mother nearly paid the price for that misfortune.

When 17-year-old Cody Williams of Kasilof shot and killed a charging young grizzly Sunday afternoon, he drew the rancor of the cub's mother, that responded with violent fury. The cow attacked Cody twice before being chased off by gunfire and Cody survived. But not without wounds to accompany a mother of a Mother's Day tale.

"We're so thankful that he's with us for sure," said Birdie Williams, Cody's mother. "It's kind of like a nightmare and a miracle all at once."

She said the irony of the day the incident occurred was not lost on her son, who she said apologized continuously Sunday while being treated for his injuries at Central Peninsula General Hospital in Soldotna.

"He kept saying he was sorry for giving me a bad Mother's Day," she said.

The Skyview High School junior went hunting for black bears with friends Matt Weaver and Scott Oldenberg on Sunday afternoon near Bear Creek along Tustumena Lake's southwestern shore.

The trio split up to find trees to climb where they would wait and wait for a bear. Then it started raining.

"I jumped out of the tree and heard some huffing and puffing," Cody said. "Then I saw something to my right. A bear was coming at me."

Cody fired one round from his .30-06 rifle and dropped the bear, which was later found dead and determined to be a 2-year-old sow.

Weaver was in a tree nearby and said he saw two brown bear cubs and a mother that appeared to have been agitated by what he thought was a low-flying airplane.

"A plane had spooked them and they were kind of running all over," he said.

Cody said he saw the mother after shooting the cub and turned to run for the nearest tree.

"It wasn't more than 30 seconds later that mother came after him," Matt said. "He took off running and tried to climb a cottonwood tree. He got up about 10 feet, but kept sliding."

Matt said the sow was about 8 or 9 feet tall. Cody said the adult sow closed the nearly 100-yard gap between herself and the tree he was in just three more seconds than it took him to travel 10 yards to the tree.

"I knew they were fast, but I didn't realize just how fast," Cody said.

"She grabbed the back of my leg and jerked me out of the tree and dragged me five yards to the bottom of the hill. When I felt her latch onto me, I remember thinking if this is how I was going to die."

Matt said Cody was on his stomach with his hands over his head while the bear was dragging him, but the bruin only had him for a few seconds.

"The first time she got off, I was thinking whether I was going to make it to Matt," Cody said.

Matt said the bear let up and Cody attempted to retreat down a hill. But the mother gave chase and jumped on him again.

"I could feel her chewing on my head," Cody said. "It was kind of weird. It wasn't really painful at the time, but my head felt different. It felt like part of my hair was missing."

During the second attack, Matt said he saw his friend reaching inside his coat for his shoulder holster where he kept a .44-caliber revolver.

"He hollered at me to shoot her, and I said ŒI am,'" Matt recalled. "He said, Œwell keep shooting her.'

"I stayed back a bit so I could get the shot off. And I didn't want to be too close to the mauling."

Weaver jumped from his perch and fired a shot at the bear's back with a .338 Winchester rifle.

The bear stepped back from Cody and he struggled, and eventually stood up. Within 10 seconds he said the bear was coming at him again.

"She must have felt threatened," he said.

Cody fired three shots into the grizzly's chest area and hit her a fourth time behind her shoulder blade as she turned to retreat.

"I shot at her two more times while she was running away," he said.

Matt also pumped three more rounds into the animal's back as it left the scene. Neither recalled seeing the second cub again.

They called for help on Matt's mobile phone. Weaver said the battery was nearly dead, from making earlier calls attempting to meet another hunter.

"We only had enough for one more call," he said.

Matt and Scott tended to Cody's wounds and got him back to their 20-foot boat for a 20-minute trip across the lake and back to the boat landing where medical help was waiting.

"(Scott) just hauled butt all the way back," Cody said. "He never slowed down for the sand bars."

Cody was taken to CPGH where he received treatment for slash marks, puncture wounds and bite marks on his head, the back of his legs, his both arms, before being released. He has 42 staples over his right ear and on that side of his head and his right hand is broken.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife enforcement officer returned to the scene Sunday and Monday to look for the mother, with no success.

"The investigation is still ongoing," said Fish and Wildlife officer Rob Barto. "He did obviously defend himself from the brown bear. We just don't want a wounded brown bear up there suffering."

Cody said he learned a lesson from the ordeal and is glad to have made it through alive.

"I figure I was pretty lucky. It wasn't my time yet," he said. "As powerful as she was, she could have done a whole lot worse. She just wanted to get me out of her territory.

"She left me with a lot more respect for their speed, size and strength."
 

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From ADF&G

Hunters most likely bear victims
By MARCUS K. GARNER
Peninsula Clarion

Following Sunday's bear attack, the first reported this year on the Kenai Peninsula, where a brown bear attacked a hunter, Alaska Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials noted the circumstances made for a mostly unavoidable incident.

"Statistically, hunters are the most likely to get mauled, because they're doing all of the things people aren't supposed to do to avoid getting mauled," said Fish and Game spokesperson Bruce Bartley.

He said this includes hunting into the wind, as opposed to having the wind at their backs, remaining concealed instead of being out in the open and being silent rather than making a lot of noise.

"You can tell a guy to hunt with the wind to his back, he'll hunt for years and he'll never kill anything," Bartley said.

Rob Barto, a law enforcement officer for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, said there's no correct response for a bear attack.

"We've all read the books, but each bear is going to react differently," Barto said.

Bartley offered some advice for hunters venturing into bear-filled woods:

Pay attention and be aware of the potential for danger.

Hunt in pairs. If you have an animal down, one should be butchering, the other should be watching out for anything approaching.

If you have to make multiple trips, move the meat away from the gut pile (several hundred yards away). Put it out in an open place where you can see all the approaches.

When you kill something, put on your rain gear, because you can wash your rain gear and not have it on you while sleeping in your tent or packing it out.

When you get meat back to your camp, you want to have it in a meat cache that is out in the open where you can see all approaches to it.
 
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