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Oregon woman fights off Alaska bear

Associated Press
July 12, 2002 08:45:00

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - An Oregon woman escaped with bite and claw wounds Wednesday after a mauling by a black bear that stalked her for more than an hour along a trail in Southeast Alaska.

Kristy L. Abbott, 27, of Harrisburg, Ore., has returned to work at American Safari Cruises, according to her father, Ralph Abbott, speaking from his home in Harrisburg. She could not be reached for comment.

Abbott told troopers that she was jogging on Petersburg Mountain Trail about 5 p.m. Wednesday when she saw a black bear ahead. She stopped and sounded a portable air horn, but the bear charged.

What followed were a harrowing brawl and chase, which Abbott described to her father later that night.

"She said she was at it for an hour and a half, and she traded blows with it just straight up," Ralph Abbott said. "She would keep it away with a stick as best she could. She said she somehow got a tree between the two of them, and for 15 minutes or so, she'd go one way and it would go the other."

He said his daughter did not turn her back on the gaunt, thin animal. She fought hard and edged back toward the trail head at Kupreanof State Dock.

The confrontation ended when Kristy Abbott walloped the bear over the head with a large stick. She might have hit it in the eye, she told her dad. The bear lumbered away.

She was treated at Petersburg Medical Center for scrapes and puncture wounds on the back of her legs.

Southeast Alaska is densely populated with black bears, said John Hechtel, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Such attacks are rare but are not unheard of, he said. Black bears are typically unaggressive and shy around humans. But in rare cases, black bears become single-minded predators and target people. They can attack and chase tirelessly, unruffled by loud noises or pepper sprays, encouraged by someone who runs away or plays dead.

"What you have to do is fend it off is try to fight back with all you've got, make yourself seem as big as possible, use a chunk of wood, a rock, whatever you can and concentrate your attack on the bear's face and nose," Hechtel said. "It sounds like this woman did the right thing."

Copyright 2002, All rights reserved.

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