A National Guard soldier from Alaska was almost killed on Sunday when he was mauled by a bear, despite the fact he was wearing protective equipment.
Sgt. Lucas Wendeborn of Valdez is still being treated for puncture wounds and scratches after the mauling at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The large brown bear, which was a female, was apparently protecting her two baby cubs.
Thankfully, the soldier’s injuries are not life threatening, and National Guard spokeswoman Maj. Candis Olmstead told reporters that Wendeborn, aged 26, was not armed and had no ammunition at the time of the attack. He was also well protected with helmet, load-bearing equipment and a reflective safety vest.
Olmstead said: “The gear that was over him, it probably had some impact on protecting him some.”
Olmstead went on to explain that the bear most likely attacked the soldier because he startled her: “It appeared that he and the bear startled each other.”
As soon as he was attacked the soldier recalled a bear-safety briefing he had been through and immediately dropped to the ground. He was picked up by the bear from the hip and thrown around like a rag doll. The bear also hit and bit the victim before leaving him alone after a roughly 30 second, sustained attack.
Wendeborn waited about 20 seconds for the bear to leave before blowing his safety whistle, alerting medics. The puncture wounds under the victim’s shoulder and rib cage were attended to by the medics en-route to the base hospital.
As this was the second bear mauling within two months in the area, it was closed off for one week. Back in May, Jessica Gamboa was badly mauled by a bear as she jogged on a trail near to where Alaskan soldier was attacked.
Jessy Coltrane, a wildlife biologist with Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said there is no way of telling if this if the bear who attacked the soldier is the same bear who attacked Gamboa, but said: “It was basically a bear being a bear.”