A National Guardsman was attacked by a bear on late Sunday morning during a training exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, an Alaskan military base. Sergeant Lucas Wendeborn of Valdez, attached to the 1st Battalion, 297th Brigade Reconnaisance and Surveillance Squadron (Cavalry), was unarmed but well-shielded by the gear he wore and his injuries are not considered life-threatening.
National Guard spokesperson Major Candis Olmstead said that Wendeborn, 26, was engaged in a timed solo navigation exercise which involves soldiers using compasses and maps to find hidden locations on a wilderness course.
Command Sergeant Major Alan Feaster of the Alaska Army National Guard said in a written statement that the injured soldier called it “a textbook example of a worst-case scenario” and that his gear –a helmet, load-bearing equipment, and a reflective safety vest– probably helped save his life.
Alone during the exercise, Wendeborn went around a tree and the brown bear sow came out of the dense brush; startled, the soldier quickly followed bear-safety protocol and dropped to the ground. He covered his head and stayed motionless. The bear lifted and tossed the Guardsman before swatting and biting at him. The attack lasted less than a minute. Once the bear was gone, Wendeborn blew a safety whistle, calling to medics stationed close by the course.
ABC News reports that the soldier sustained puncture wounds to his right rib cage and under his left shoulder blade as well as lacerations to his left shoulder, chest, and back. He was treated at the base hospital.
Base spokesman Jim Hart has announced that the area of the attack will be closed for a week. An immediate search for the bear turned up nothing.
This is the second mauling of its type in recent months for Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in south-central Alaska, an alluring area that looks like it could be the setting for any number of postcards and nature programs. Both attacks involved a brown bear mother with two cubs.
Jessica Gamboa was mauled on May 18th when she came across a bear sow with two cubs while jogging on a trail. The wife of a soldier at the base and aware of bear-safety, she sustained cuts to her neck, arms, and legs, neck fractures and a torn ear. She was found walking along the road with both hands to her bleeding neck when she was found by a soldier driving by and taken to the hospital.
Bear attacks are infrequent, according to wildlife experts, but as their territory is altered by human presence, the number of encounters grow and many of them prove dangerous. In June, a bear was recorded at the edge of a baseball field in Juneau, Alaska during an American Legion game. In that case, the bear was outside the fence and no one was harmed. However, attacks do happen and not just in the Great White North. In Florida, last year, a woman was mauled by a black bear and seriously injured. This was not an isolated incident, as more bears enter the suburbs. They are seen rooting in garbage cans, loping across yards, and even napping in hammocks.
In a previous Inquisitr article, we covered information on how to survive a bear attack.
The claws of a brown bear are curved and may reach a length of more than two inches. Their jaws are powerful with large incisors and canine teeth. Brown bears, a label for several bear species, may be up to nine feet long from nose to rump with a shoulder height of 60 inches and might weigh anywhere from 400 to 700 pounds, with some individuals reaching a whopping 1,500 pounds.
The Alaskan brown bear population is estimated to stand at 32,000 individuals and, for the area of south-central Alaska where the military base maulings occurred, the average bear population density is one for an area of perhaps 25 square miles.
According to wildlife biologist Jessy Coltrane, Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game has investigated the mauling and decided that the bear poses no risk to public safety. It’s not uncommon for bear sows to attack humans if their cubs are involved and the attack happened in thick brush that is not used for recreation. Coltrane added
“It was basically a bear being a bear”.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)