Authorities will not hunt bear in Alaska attack

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 25, 2011 9:13 PM

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Alaska wildlife managers have no plans to hunt down a bear that attacked a group of seven young backpackers over the weekend in a remote stretch of backcountry, a state biologist said on Monday.

The bear, believed to be a female with a cub nearby, probably acted to defend its young against a perceived threat when it attacked teenagers participating in a National Outdoor Leadership School expedition, said Lem Butler, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

"The bear does not pose an immediate risk to public safety, so we do not have any plans to locate or remove it," he said.

That could change if Alaska fish and game officials learn the animal, which was either a grizzly or a brown bear, was unusually aggressive. But so far experts believe the attack was a result of a specific scenario that is unlikely to be repeated, he said.

Also, the area where the mauling occurred is so remote that authorities were not confident they could find the bear.

The bear attacked the teenagers on Saturday evening as they were attempting to cross a rushing river in a remote area east of Denali National Park, according to state police. Four of the seven teens were injured seriously enough to be hospitalized.

Joshua Berg, 17, of New York, and Samuel Gottsegen, 17, of Colorado, were the two expedition members who bore the brunt of the attack. Berg remained hospitalized in Anchorage on Monday in serious condition, while Gottsegen was in good condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The other two hospitalized teens have since been released.

After the attack, the teens gave each other first aid and activated an emergency beacon. They were evacuated from the area early on Sunday by the Alaska Air National Guard.

The teens were on the 24th day of a 30-day guided backpacking expedition and wilderness course, and on their first day of hiking without an instructor, when the mauling occurred, according to the National Outdoor Leadership School.

They had been educated about bear safety and were equipped with bear-repellent spray, the school said in a statement.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston)