A nighttime crossing of a creek in the Alaska wilderness turned into a nightmare situation for seven teenage hikers taking part in a survival-skills course, as a mother grizzly bear with a cub attacked the group and inflicted serious wounds to two of the hikers.
The incident occurred Saturday night in the Talkeetna Mountains about 120 miles north of Anchorage, where hikers between the ages of 16 and 18 were backpacking as part of a month-long National Outdoor Leadership School course.
At least four hikers were attacked and all seven were injured, directly or indirectly, as a result of the attack. They gave each other first-aid, according to reports. Ultimately, they were evacuated by Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Air National Guard.
The two seriously injured hikers are Joshua Berg of New City, N.Y., and Samuel Gottsegen of Denver, Colo. Both are 17.
Gottsegen, who was bitten on the head and chest, and suffered a punctured lung and broken ribs, told 7News in Denver: "I thought I was going to die when I was being attacked. I was so scared. I looked behind me and the bear was behind me. So, I started running down the hill and it tackled me on the way down."
The teens were able to activate a personal locator beacon and built a makeshift camp to await their rescue.
The Anchorage Daily News reports that the attack occurred during the group's first day of backpacking without adult supervision. The hikers, on their 24th day of the course, were supposed to call upon skills they had learned earlier in the course.
The ADN quotes a spokesman for the National Outdoor Leadership School as saying that the group, which had been walking in a line, was making noise, which is intended to prevent surprise encounters.
The spokesman also said three members of the group carried bear spray, but it remains unclear whether any of the hikers used the repellent.
The bear apparently mauled the first teenager to have crossed the creek, then attacked another hiker before returning to its first victim.
Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as of Monday morning had not decided what to do about the bear, if it can be located by Troopers.
-- Generic grizzly bear image is courtesy of Wikipedia