Bear attacks are rare to begin with. Far from unheard of, as Outsiders know, but rare regardless. But being harassed and assaulted by the same bear over a week-long period? That is near unheard of. And exactly what happened to this Alaskan man.
If not for a flight by the state’s U.S. Coast Guard aircrew Friday, the unidentified man likely would’ve met his end out in the far bush.
Alaska’s Public Media (PBS/NPR) says the Kodiak-based helicopter crew’s flight from Kotzebue to Nome had nothing to do with the man’s rescue. In fact, it was routine and otherwise completely uneventful. That is, until they spotted an SOS sign etched into the top of a remote shack in an abandoned mining camp. And that’s only the beginning of the story.
Taking no chances, the crew would circle back to spot a man stumbling out of the shack whilst frantically waving his hands. It was then that Lt. Commander Jared Carbajal remembers his co-pilot asking:
“Hey there’s a guy down there and he’s waving at us!”
To which Carbajal replied: “Is he waving with one hand or two hands?”
“Two hands!” his co-pilot decreed.
“I said well, that’s usually a sign of distress,” Carbajal remembers telling the crew of their Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk.
Alaskan Man Barely Survives Week of Bear Attacks, Saved By Complete Coincidence
Once onboard, the man – who wishes to remain anonymous – told the crew that he had been attacked by a bear several days prior. And in the time since, the bear had continued to “harass him for a week straight.”
To back up his claim, the man had a severe – though not life-threatening – injury to his leg, which he had taped. Congruent bruising to his chest and limbs was present… Alongside the door to his shack shelter being completely ripped off by not a human.
“At some point, a bear had dragged him down to the river,” Lt. Cmdr. Carbajal clarifies for The New York Times. “He had a pistol. He said that the bear kept coming back every night and he hadn’t slept in a few days.”
Definitely a scenario in which sleep becomes obsolete. The victim, who Coast Guard officials say is “in his late 50s or early 60s,” believes he wound up in the remote shack on July 12. He has no idea, nor does the Coast Guard, how he ended up so displaced.
“He definitely looked like he had been out there for a while,” confirms 35-year-old co-pilot Lieutenant j.g. A.J. Hammac. “We don’t really come across people in the middle of nowhere He was kind of struggling. When we came around, he was on his hands and knees waving a white flag.”
Commander Carbajal adds that “You could tell he was starting to come off of the adrenaline, I think, and started to realize what happened… He did not want to get in the gurney.”
But it’s a good thing he did. “If we would have been in the next river valley over,” Carbajal concludes, “we would have totally missed him.”