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Cruise line CEO details Alaska bear mauling of Hawaii woman, fellow guide

  • COURTESY U.S. COAST GUARD VIDEO

    A Hawaii woman was one of two wilderness guides who were mauled by a brown bear as they were leading cruise ship passengers on a hike in the Tongass National Forest.

JUNEAU, Alaska >> A bear that mauled two cruise ship wilderness guides during a hiking excursion in Alaska attacked so quickly that there was little time to defend against the animal, the CEO of the cruise ship company said.

The attack occurred after the guides and a group of hikers from the cruise vessel Wilderness Explorer rounded a “semi-blind corner” and found themselves between the bear and her cub, UnCruise Adventures CEO Dan Blanchard told the Juneau Empire in an interview published Tuesday.

“I can’t express enough about how rapidly this happened,” Blanchard said.

The guides are crew members of the 74-passenger vessel and receive training on bear safety and other topics each spring, he said.

The Coast Guard rescued the injured guides, who were identified by Alaska state troopers as 41-year-old Anna Powers of Hawaii and 26-year-old Michael Justa of Juneau.

Justa was treated and released the in Sitka. Powers was in satisfactory condition Wednesday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The Aug. 18 hike in Tongass National Forest has been part of the Wilderness Explorer’s regular eight-day itinerary since the early 2000s.

The lead guide was in front of the 22 passengers who were hiking and the other guide was at the rear when the bear attacked.

The group was walking single file and had spread out as much as 200 feet along a trail. When the group came upon the bear and cub, the lead guide put out her arms and told the party to back up, Blanchard said.

The hikers had started to do so when the adult animal attacked the guide, who didn’t have a chance to use her bear spray, he said.

“Within seconds, the bear stood up, groaned so loud that every person in the group heard the groan, including the guide in the back, and charged at very short range,” Blanchard said.

The guide at the back of the group ran to the front, getting out his bear spray. The bear charged the guide, who started spraying the animal from about 20 feet away.

“He said it was a direct hit into the eyes and mouth,” Blanchard said. “As he was spraying it, the bear reached down, grabbed his leg.”

The male guide’s injuries were relatively minor, according to Blanchard, who declined to elaborate. The Coast Guard has said the victims each sustained severe lacerations and multiple injuries.

Authorities have said they have no plans to hunt down the bear. Tongass officials say bears are common in the area near a stream filled with salmon at this time of the year.

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  • I think that walking near a salmon filled river with cruise line waiters that do double duty as wilderness guides is a bad idea this time of year. Duh!

    • If you have been in bear country, you would know that trying to shoot an attacking bear has not worked for well armed hunters. They attack suddenly as hunter and bear both surprise eachother,. A bear can run almost half a football filed faster than the 4.3 seconds it takes an NFL player. By the time you realize the bear is attacking you the bear may be only 20 yards away– 2 seconds for you to aim and shoot plus the time it takes to get a huge gun out of a holster, take off the safety, cock and fire. Even if you got it up you would probably miss your one shot entirely or miss a vital spot.

      • As Tempmona says, draw aim and fire in 2 seconds at a target closing at 30 mph? And one shot won’t stop it. The saying in Alaska is that you should file the front sight so when the bear gets to you and shoves the pistol in your derriere, it won’t hurt so much. At that range, duck and cover and pray the momma bear decides you are no longer a threat after mauling you a bit.

  • Good thing the guide had bear spray. If they didn’t deploy that, they probably would have been all torn to pieces. They need to distribute the spray to ALL of the people in the party and have them all carrying it ready to deploy in seconds.

  • The very first thing I was told as a teenager working in the Teton National Wilderness in June was to stay as far as possible from bears with cubs and moose with calves. Unfortunate incident but the people invited themselves into the bear’s living room.

  • I’m far from anything resembling an”expert” about bears but I’ve hiked along rivers in Alaska. Lesson #1 is “Do NOT surprise a bear”.

    I sang and yell at the top of my lungs as I noisily made my trek.
    I think the guides should have instructed to the group sing/talk LOUDLY as they made their way, especially if they can’t see ahead of them (“semi-blind corner”).
    This would have probably caused the bears to head in the opposite direction or at the very least allowed the mother to get beside her cub. You don’t come to come between the two.

    • Oh funny! We used to do the same thing in Wyoming. Nobody with any sense wants to surprise a bear or a moose. Some day, I’ll post my story about the surprised moose.

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