Two campers asleep in tent injured in ‘quick and intense’ bear attack

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Two campers were asleep in their tent and had no time to react when a bear injured them in a “quick and intense” attack in Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge early Saturday morning.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge reported Sunday on Facebook that the people were camping alone along the shoreline of Skilak Lake near the mouth of Hidden Creek, and that after the attack, they managed to kayak to Upper Skilak Lake Campground to seek help.

One of the campers assisting the injured pair contacted Alaska State Troopers via satellite phone, and emergency medical personnel responded with a helicopter and ambulance, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

One camper was airlifted to a nearby hospital while the other was taken by ambulance. The extent of their injuries was not clear.

Leah Eskelin, a refuge spokesperson, told ADN that officials didn’t know why the bear attacked and didn’t know what kind of bear was involved.

“It was a short, quick, in-your-tent attack,” Eskelin told ADN.

“We’re grateful that they got the care that they needed right away and that everyone really came together at the campground to provide that aid and give them a quick response time.”

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Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger told ADN the campers had bear deterrents, such as bear spray and a bear horn, but didn’t have time to use them as the attack was quick and intense, adding that it was around midnight.

When it was over, the campers quickly loaded some of their gear into the kayaks and went for help, which was a 1½- to 2-hour paddle away. They were prepared with first aid supplies; at the campground boat launch, other campers administered first aid.

“There’s no indication that they did anything to prompt the attack or did anything wrong,” Selinger told ADN. “It’s one of those where you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

ADFG biologists and wildlife officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were on the scene of the attack Saturday but didn’t find the bear. They collected the collapsed tent and other camping gear.

“ADFG is working on seeing if they can pull any DNA material off of that, like hair, because they want to see if they can find out what kind of species it is and that might help determine why the bear acted the way it did,” Eskelin told ADN.

The Hidden Creek Trail was closed Saturday but reopened Sunday with signs posted with details about the attack to warn trail users. Selinger urged those utilizing the area to use caution and carry safety supplies like bear deterrent and first aid.

“The big thing is being prepared as well as these folks were. You could get attacked in the Fred Meyer parking lot — you’re always in bear country here,” Selinger told ADN. “Always have some medical equipment, maybe compression bandages and things you may not think of. And whenever you’re going out, just be prepared in case something does happen — have a plan of how to get back to safety or how to contact somebody.”

Photo of Hidden Creek Trail courtesy of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge; generic bear photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.