Alaska Bear Attack Survivor Credits Coworker’s Quick Thinking for Saving His Life

by Shelby Scott

Outdoorsmen are familiar with bear sightings. However, it’s not every day that one of your potential job risks includes bear attacks. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what happened following another day at work for Alaskan Jess Coltharp, a Fish and Game fisheries technician. Coltharp was attacked by a brown bear on August 19th. Thanks to his brave coworker and good spirits, he continues to recover.

According to KTOO, Coltharp had just finished surveying a stream on West Chichagof Island several hours north of Sitka. Coltharp had been accompanied by his coworker Anthony Walloch and a volunteer named Ethan. Around 5 p.m., they were on a walk back to their boat when the attack occured. The news outlet stated Coltharp walked ahead of the other two men when he heard rustling in some bushes.

“I couldn’t even really see it all at first because the brush was pretty thick, but about 20 feet away…this bear comes charging out of the brush at full speed,” Coltharp said. He further explained that the bear gave no warning before the attack, which is unusual according to the outdoorsman. “Normally,” he began, “when they’re defensive over their territory, they let you know…So it was kind of a unique situation.”

Coltharp said he reached for the rifle on his back but didn’t move fast enough. Because of his quick thinking, however, the technician moved his head and upper body out of the way. That’s when the bear latched onto his leg right above his knee instead. He recounted the bear shaking him by the leg and yelling to his companion, “Shoot it!” over and over.

Brown Bear Down

Thankfully, Walloch got in a fast clean shot, avoiding Coltharp entirely. Coltharp said as soon as the first bullet lodged itself in the bear’s hide, it let go of his leg. An attack like that is surely nothing to shake off right away. Though ironically, Coltharp recalled saying to Walloch right after, “Nice shot, thanks for saving my life.”

Walloch fired two more shots at the bear, just to make sure it wouldn’t get back up to attack again. Walloch shared that while he and the volunteer avoided the attack, he was still pretty shaken up by it. The gunman said, “He’s like ‘Hell of a shot, buddy!’ And at that moment when he said that…that made me feel a little calmer…[because] he could still talk to me, and everything seemed alright.”

Coltharp proved his good spirits during the crew’s walk back to their boat. At one point, they stopped for a break. He then had his mates take a photo of him, thumbs up with a giant grin spread across his face.

Coltharp shared with the news outlet, “I think I had a smile on my face because I was just so damn relieved that the bear didn’t have me anymore.”

In reference to his companion, the technician said, “Anthony’s never gonna have to buy a drink around me ever again. I definitely owe that guy a lot.”