Bear Attacks Campers Sleeping in Their Tent

Two campers were injured after being attacked by a bear while they were sleeping in a tent on a camping trip in Alaska.

The unidentified victims were camping on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge at the mouth of Hidden Creek along the shore of Skilak Lake at the time of the incident Saturday, according to a statement from the wildlife refuge shared on its Facebook page.

Following the attack, the campers managed to kayak to the Upper Skilak Lake Campground where they were assisted by other campers before emergency responders were contacted, the statement said.

Officials said the campers were taken to local hospitals. No details were released about the severity of the injuries sustained by the pair.

The wildlife refuge said biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) and federal wildlife officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were at the campsite, retrieving gear and conducting an investigation.

The wildlife refuge stated: "No bears were found in the area and sign left at the site was inconclusive. They found a collapsed tent and other camping gear. ADFG is conducting a DNA analysis on items collected in an attempt to identify the species of bear involved."

A public information officer for the wildlife refuge, Leah Eskelin, said it is unknown what type of bear was involved or what caused the attack. "It was a short, quick, in-your-tent attack," she told Alaska's Anchorage Daily News.

According to wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger from the ADFG, the campsite grounds consist mostly of rock and gravel, making it difficult to trace animal tracks or other clues to help establish what happened during the latest attack, Anchorage Daily News reported.

Eskelin said the victims were camping in a dispersed area near the mouth of Hidden Creek, where there were no other campers in the immediate area on Saturday morning.

Selinger said the campers, who were sleeping when the animal attacked their tent around midnight local time, described the attack as quick and intense.

Selinger noted the campers didn't have time to use the bear deterrents they had with them, including a bear horn and spray.

The biologist said once the attack stopped and things quieted down, the campers were able to load some of their gear into kayaks and head to the Upper Skilak Lake Campground. He said the campers were well prepared with first aid supplies.

Cell phone service around the Skilak Lake is spotty, so it's unlikely there was service available where the bear attack took place, according to Selinger.

The statement from the wildlife refuge said Alaska State Troopers were contacted via satellite phone, while emergency medical personnel responded by helicopter and ambulance after the pair kayaked to the Upper Skilak Lake Campground, a journey which took around two hours, according to Selinger.

One of the victims was airlifted to a hospital nearby, while the other was taken by ambulance, Selinger said.

"There's no indication that they did anything to prompt the attack or did anything wrong," Selinger told Anchorage Daily News. "It's one of those where you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The Hidden Creek Trail, which ends at Skilak Lake near the campsite, was temporarily closed to the public on Saturday before it reopened Sunday. Warning signs were posted to inform visitors of the latest bear attack.

"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 Anchorage Daily News.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service warns: "Alaska is fortunate to be home to these amazing creatures. With this privilege comes the added responsibility for hikers and campers to prevent conflicts with these animals.

"Often these conflicts are a result of human carelessness, especially with food...therefore, it is important that they don't consider campsites and other populated areas as a food source.

"A bear will often attack if its food supply is tampered with. If you notice fresh bear sign, such as scat or tracks, turn back the way you came," it adds.

The ADFG says: "If you encounter a bear, how you behave often dictates the outcome of the encounter. Even though encounters with bears are not common and aggressive bear encounters are rare, the more you know about bear safety the better off you are."

See the websites of the ADFG and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for more information about bear safety.

Newsweek has contacted the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as well as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for comment.

A brown bear in Alaska.
A brown bear fishing for salmon on the Moraine River at Katmai National Park, Alaska on August 20, 2017. A bear attacked two campers who were sleeping in a tent at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday. Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts