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After grizzly attack in Alaska, something to bear in mind

August 10, 2008 | 10:52 am


Shameful though it is that man has eradicated grizzly bears from California and most of the lower 48, there are times we might be thankful that the only wild animals we really have to be concerned about while exploring our wilderness are mountain lIons, rattlesnakes and, in some mountain locales, much smaller, tamer and more predictable black bears.

Now is one such time. I just read in the Anchorage Daily News a frightful tale of a fortunate woman named Clivia Feliz, who was attacked by a grizzly as she jogged on a trail Friday evening in Far North Bicentennial Park in Anchorage, Alaska. Fortunate, because she suffered on a partially collapsed lung, cuts to her arm and puncture marks on her head and neck.

It was a hiker's worst nightmare. Feliz, 51, who was with her border collie, Sky, had come across two cubs, which playfully chased her as she and Sky sprinted away from them. Sky split off in another direction, luring the cubs, but a 400-pound sow took their place. Feliz crouched between fallen trees and the bear was upon her momentarily. At one point it took her head in its jaws and shook. Then it went for the rib cage, and Feliz could feel the separation of bones.

For whatever reason, the bear suddenly left and Sky returned. Feliz found help and had become the second person in six weeks to have been mauled by what biologists believe is the same bear. They're currently hunting and hoping to kill the animal. What wi ll become of its cubs remains to be seen.

How this resonates with me is that I sometimes prefer to hike alone because it affords a better chance to see wildlife. Many times I've seen mountain lion tracks, and at least once I experienced an eerie sensation as though I were being watched.

Though I'd love to see and perhaps photograph a mountain lion — so far, in the Santa Monica Mountains, I've seen only coyotes, deer and one bobcat — the last thing I'd want is to have a couple of cougar cubs rushing toward me, hoping to play.

I can only imagine what raced through Feliz's mind and can only guess that her dog luring the cubs away saved her life.

— Pete Thomas

Photo: This grizzly bear near Soldotna, Alaska, had to be euthanized June 15 after it wandered near Mackey Lake Road and the Sterling Highway, wounded at least three times by hunters days earlier, a biologist reported. Credit: Colin Tyler Bogucki / Associated Press