A man from suburban Chicago reportedly survived being mauled by a bear while camping in southeast Alaska.
Kenneth Steck, who moved to Alaska four years ago after enrolling in an outdoor studies program at Alaska Pacific University, was visiting friends and family with his wife in the town of Yakutat two weeks ago when they decided to travel to Disenchantment Bay for a trip, Steck told the Alaska Dispatch News.
The next morning, Steck had left the camp to fill up some water jugs at a nearby snowmelt waterfall and as he was gathering the water, he heard something in the woods behind him. That’s when he turned around and saw “a brown bear in a full charge” heading for him, he told the publication.
Steck began to walk backwards, but fell on his back and started screaming as loud as he could.
The bear swiped at Steck’s right foot, which was in the air as Steck tried to distance himself from the bear, putting a major gash in his leg, he told the Dispatch. Then the bear went for his upper body.
Steck suffered numerous injuries to his scalp, chest and calf and a wound to his right shoulder, but has reportedly been released from the hospital.
He told the Dispatch he is happy it was just him and not his family members attacked.
An Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist who interviewed Steck when he arrived for treatment at Anchorage Hospital determined the bear should not be killed for the attack, saying it didn’t appear to be predatory, but rather a case of a human surprising the bear at close quarters.
“The attack lasted only seconds – just long enough for the surprised bear to neutralize a perceived threat. The bear then ran away,” spokesman Ken Marsh said in an emailed statement. “With this information, our biologist determined that subsequent attacks from the animal are unlikely and that little would be gained in seeking and destroying the bear. It is also worth noting that the attack site is located in a remote area that sees few visitors.”
In rare cases when a bear appears to have “gone out of its way to attack a human,” wildlife officials said they would attempt to kill the animal for public safety reasons.
Marsh noted this is the third bear mauling reported to the department so far this year. All three incidents have involved brown or grizzly bears.
DNA from Steck’s attack was collected and preserved, should another attack occur in the area, Marsh said.