SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Alaska man fights a bear to a tie
Anchorage Daily News


August 05, 2008

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Devon Rees could have played dead. Or run. Instead, he chose to fight the bear that lunged out of the woods near his home in Eagle River, Alaska earlier this week.

And, although he ended up with a harvest of cuts and bruises, he survived.

"I definitely earned my bragging rights boxing a bear," said Rees, 18. "It got me a couple of times, and I got her a good couple of times. I wasn't going to give the bear an easy target."

Rees was walking home from a friend's house at about 2 a.m. When he left the paved street for a dirt road, he was less than 50 yards from his home. Midway across, he heard a splash down the embankment at the water's edge, perhaps 10 feet away. Probably just some salmon jumping, he thought.

The creek is a popular king salmon fishery -- for bears, said Jessy Coltrane, assistant Anchorage-area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The culvert under the road acts as a bottleneck for the migrating fish, making for easy pickings, she said.

This late in summer, darkness envelops the woods in the early morning hours. Rees couldn't see a thing. As he continued on, the bear barreled out and tore into him. He tore back.

"I was doing the best I could to stay up on my toes and move all around it," Rees said. "I figured my best chance was to fight the best I could, fight the hardest I could to get away."

The bear bit into his arms. Scratched his side. Dug into his thighs. Swatted his head. Rees was pumped with adrenaline, masking the pain of teeth and nails sinking into his flesh. He started yelling furiously and fighting back.

As suddenly as the attack began, the bear released him. He didn't wait around. Rees began staggering up the road, shoeless and with pants shredded, calling 911 on his cell phone as he headed toward a nearby fire station. Police arriving on the scene found Rees, but the bear was gone, said Lt. Paul Honeman, who tallied the brawl as a "tie."

Medical personnel gave Rees some morphine for the pain and took him to a hospital, where he was treated for cuts, gashes and scrapes to his head, left arm and side, both thighs and waist.

Fish and Game got on the scene at about 2:45 a.m. but was unable to find the bear, Coltrane said. The type of bear is unknown, but it appeared to be acting defensively -- the way one would expect of a sow surprised in the dark, near a salmon stream and possibly with a cub in tow, she said.

Recently people have reported seeing bears in that area almost every night, said Rees' uncle, R.J. Jones, who lives nearby. A neighbor's chicken coup has been raided, and on Friday, Rees himself had been charged by a bear while riding his bike but had not been injured then.

Coltrane said there were no plans to hunt the bear down because it appeared to be behaving normally.


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Stories In The News
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