Bear attacks sleeping kayakers near Skilak Lake
Two kayakers paddled six miles to safety across Skilak Lake after being maimed by a bear early Saturday morning.
Jamie Nelson of Kenai was at Upper Skilak Lake Campground when the kayakers pulled up around 2 a.m.
âSix miles for two hours after being maimed by bears. This is the part of the story that I can’t seem to understand, âhe said.
The authorities do not disclose the names of the victims. But Nelson said on the latest news that they are both in stable condition.
Kayakers were tent camping on the shores of Skilak Lake on Friday night, where the lake meets Hidden Creek. They had been kayaking there earlier in the day from Upper Skilak Campground accessible by car.
Around midnight, a bear loaded them into their tent while they were sleeping. They had bear spray but the bear charged too quickly for them to use it.
Both were injured, the man more seriously injured than the woman. Nelson said he did not know how the victims escaped from the bear. But when they did, they were able to heal the lacerations in their arms and legs.
âAnd luckily they were so prepared and had a nice first aid kit with them that they had a product called Quick Clot,â he said. “Which apparently slows down the bleeding very well.”
The victims’ campsite was accessible via the Hidden Creek Trail. But even though they knew this entry point, the victim’s injuries were so severe that he could not walk.
Instead, they rowed for almost two hours to Upper Skilak Lake Campground.
Skilak Lake is large and can get quite windy and wavy. But that night, Nelson said, the calm was glassy.
âIf the winds had picked up that night and the water had been rough, I just don’t know if they could have made the trip,â he said.
Nelson and his family had a campsite along the shore and heard the kayakers screaming for help as they arrived. Likewise, several other campers and the campsite host have done so. They called an ambulance and helped the female victim get something out of her car while they waited.
The victim man remained in the kayak on the beach. He was cold and didn’t think he could support himself with his leg.
âI think adrenaline always played a pretty big role,â said Nelson. âBecause for everything they had been through, they were very calm. They were very realistic about what happened and what was to happen from that point on.
Less than half an hour after the campers called, the ambulance arrived. A few minutes later, a medical evacuation arrived to take away the male victim.
Nelson met one of the victims’ friends the next day, when he passed with wildlife soldiers.
âI will never forget what he said to me, when he looked me in the eye and thanked me,â Nelson said. He said, ‘You know, we have some living friends. “”
Nelson’s children slept the whole time. But he said it was really moving to see the campers at the site take action.
“It’s just a very significant story,” he said. That when people are in danger, Alaskans come together and rally around those in need of help. And while there may be concerns for their own safety, they will come running to help neighbors in need.
Meanwhile, officials from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have sent DNA samples from the scene to Anchorage to learn more about the bear involved in the attack. Although they don’t know what type of bear it was, Nelson said victims believed it was a brown bear. Authorities said the animal was likely not provoked.
Regional Fish and Game Management Coordinator Jeff Selinger said it’s important to remember that such attacks are rare. But he said it’s also important to be prepared for bear country, as these victims were.
The refuge closed Hidden Creek Trail after the attack to give investigators some space. The trail reopened on Sunday.