More than a dozen police officers responded to a report of a brown bear attack on a group of juveniles on a hiking trail near a popular campground outside Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday.
Two boys and two girls were hiking just north of the Eagle River Campground when they encountered a brown bear with two cubs.
“It sounds like they surprised [the bears], and momma bear reacted defensively,” Kurt Hensel, chief ranger for Chugach State Park, told Alaska Dispatch News.
The hikers became separated as they went looking for help.
“While officers were searching for the hikers, they were charged by the brown bear,” Anchorage Police spokeswoman Renee Oistad wrote in the police report. “Officers fired shots at the bear and the bear ran off into the woods.”
It took a half hour to round up the hikers, three of whom were transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The three victims suffered minor cuts and scratches, each to different parts of their bodies, including the forearm, legs, and back and chest.
Wildlife biologists found a trace of blood at the scene of the shooting and tracked the bear for three hours. Finding no more blood, they abandoned the search, presuming the bear and cubs wandered farther into the woods.
“It was probably not a mortal wound, just something in the extremities,” Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh told Alaska Dispatch News.
Officials closed the hiking trail for a week, according to the Chugiak-Eagle River Star. A sign was posted at the trailhead saying, “Wounded bear. Sow with cubs. Closed 1 week for patrols.”
The incident comes on the heels of other bear encounters in the area.
“There have been a number of both brown bear and black bear incidents, and sightings are constant,” park ranger Tom Crockett told KTUU.
A black bear and brown bear were shot and killed Monday by Eagle River residents; one bear was approaching a horse corral and the other was attempting to raid a chicken coop. The shootings were considered to be in defense of life or property.
“It seems like everything just kinda happened at once,” Marsh told the Star. “I don’t think there’s necessarily more bears here than there normally is.”
Police are warning visitors and area residents “to use an abundance of caution as both moose and bears have new babies this time of year.”
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