It Should Have Been a Defensive Gun Use: Alaska Pipeline Worker Mauled by Black Bear

Black Bear

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By Becky Bohrer, AP

A contract worker for the trans-Alaska pipeline system was mauled by a bear and seriously injured while running on a public road near a pump station, a spokesperson for the pipeline operator said Tuesday.

The incident occurred Friday evening on a route used for recreation by employees based at the remote Interior Pump Station 5, which is on the south side of the Brooks Range, said Katie Pesznecker with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

She said security personnel went to look for the worker, identified by Alaska State Troopers as Michael Becwar, 53, of Wasilla, when they noticed he had been gone for about 80 minutes.

They found Becwar on the side of the road with serious injuries, she said. He was taken by medical transport to a hospital in Fairbanks, which is about 160 air miles south, she said. Pesznecker could not give details on his injuries but said he’s expected to recover.

Troopers, in an online dispatch, said a necropsy performed by the Department of Fish and Game confirmed an adult male black bear killed by pipeline security personnel Sunday was “very likely” the animal involved in the mauling.

Glenn Stout, a Fish and Game wildlife biologist, said the incident was determined to be predatory based on information from Becwar. Becwar reported seeing the bear on the first leg of his run “a couple hundred yards” away and again on his return, when the bear approached him, Stout said.

In both cases, Becwar raised his hands, hollered at the animal and made his presence known, Stout said.

Becwar “fought it off, continued to fight it off for what he described for, like, 15 minutes,” stabbing the bear with a pocket knife at one point, Stout said.

The biologist said the bear was not emaciated but was in poor condition.

Pesznecker said the pipeline operator takes steps aimed at minimizing encounters with bears, including herding bears away with vehicles and keeping garbage inside buildings and outdoor areas clean.

“We say on the pipeline, ‘You let bears be bears.’ We co-exist with them and do a lot to stay safe around them,” she said.

Security guards receive firearms and other training in case incidents occur, she said.

comments

  1. avatar Me says:

    An Alaskan that isn’t carrying a firearm? WTF?

    1. avatar edward kenway says:

      You’d think.
      An Army buddy once told me his family owned a gold course in Soldotna near Anchorage and it was common to see moose or bear on the greens and fairways while playing.

      1. avatar tdiinva says:

        We had a black bear on one of the course I play in La Crosse. I didn’t see it but was told that the bear came ambling over an elevated tee box, wandered over a green and took a swim in the pond before retracing its steps.

        1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          knuckle shuffle moved from yuba to cazenovia this year.

      2. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        “Gold course”

        Golf course? If that’s what you meant, how profitable could one be up in Alaska? I don’t imagine the seasonal timeframe for satisfying gameplay could be more than three or four months due to all the skeeters in Spring and wind/snow in Autumn & Winter.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          Back when I hung around bars I used to see electronic golf and skeet games. Wonder if there’s any demand for that in snow country? An indoor driving range for the golf lovers?

          I’ve never played golf. Never saw the interest in it.

        2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          caddied as a preteen, ruined the game for me.
          bunch of snobby jagffs back then.
          amazingly, that club still to this day is able to shoot scatter guns in skokie.

      3. avatar Wally1 says:

        In Juneau, (Alaska) there was a golf course where at low tide you could play 18 holes, (true). hit my first hole in one there.

    2. avatar Jimi Crackcorn says:

      I lived in Alaska for 13 years. Most Pipeline employees are not allowed to have firearms at work. If this guy worked for Alyeska Pipeline this goes double. It’s risky in the Bush. I recall a school teacher from the lower 48 who went jogging and got dragged down and eaten by a pack of wolves. She ignored the villagers advice.

  2. avatar Bombín’ in Betty says:

    That bear steps to me and he’s like to get dealt with.

  3. avatar edward kenway says:

    Seems joggers are having a pretty rough time lately.

    1. avatar This Geezer Is A Douche says:

      And you wonder why your wife and kids left you.

      1. avatar George Washington says:

        I couldn’t get that lucky…. jesus…. the arsenal I would have then!!!

      2. avatar jwm says:

        I had a wife leave me. But she left the kids with me. Bitch.

        1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          sentiment understood.
          still best case scenario.
          think of the brain mush had she raised them.

  4. avatar The Rookie says:

    I honestly didn’t know black bears could be found that far north. I figured it was all brown bears up there.

    1. avatar enuf says:

      Same here. Always thought a brown bear would not tolerate a black bear in its territory. Likewise with polar bears. But mixed breed bears have been seen a number of times. Some polar, brown and or black bears have successfully mated in the wild.

      1. avatar Get Down Do You? says:

        To be fair you could fill a library with things you two ignorant goofs don’t know.

        1. avatar The Rookie says:

          To be fair, I haven’t had much time for bear research since I started giving it to your wife on the regular.

        2. avatar arc says:

          What happens if his wife is a dude?

        3. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          “to be fair, to be faaiirr!”

      2. avatar Bruce says:

        Mostly a question of predation. Brown. Bears will generally kill and eat black bears if they can catch them. Was told by one of the rangers that their ranges don’t generally overlap, but I think that is the brown bears killing and eating black bears. But bears seem to be carnivorous, with brown bear boars apparently being the number one cause of cub death.

        Here the campgrounds have posters up illustrating how to tell the apart. Generally, the brown bear are transients, up on the ridge to the north, which is apparently a brown bear highway between two wildness areas.

        BTW, was at the Cabellas in Kallispell yesterday, and talked to another guy there looking at 10 mm ammo. I have been running a HST bear round in my G20, but he noticed the Buffalo Bore 220 grain solid cast bear rounds, and we both bought a couple boxes. I don’t expect to be high enough for brown bear, but we do have black in the subdivision I just bought. Best to be prepared.

    2. avatar John in AK says:

      Alaskan black bears are common everywhere, as far north as the south slope of the Brooks Range. Kodiak bears are only found on the Kodiak Islands. Grizzly bears range the entire mainland, including the North Slope, where they’re far more common than Polars and a positive nuisance. Polar bears pretty much stay along the north coast, but will range as far south along the Bering coast as Nome, and occasionally wander a couple of hundred miles inland.

      None of them are cuddly. All of them will kill you, and will eat you if they’re feeling peckish. And they’re always feeling peckish.

  5. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Never been to Alaska. Wanted to go to Charlie Airborne, but would have to extend if not reenlist. Said no thanks. Wish I could redo that. Anyway, we’ve had a resurgence of black bears since the tree huggers got the season closed. Since then, suprise, human-bear encounters have increased. Including a couple of attacks. If I go out I at least have a heavy caliber handgun, but usually a rifle. Truth be told I’m more worried about the wild pigs than a bear.

  6. avatar enuf says:

    Do not doubt that black bears will try to eat you if they decide you look edible. I was an EMT with a rural FD many years ago and we responded for a teenage girl dragged out of a tent by a black bear. The animal had casually set to eating her on the spot.

    The campground and campers had done everything right. There was no people food around. Trash was in a designated spot in sealed steel dumpsters. All the kids were required to wash after dinner. No dirty clothes in the tent. No perfumes or scented soaps and no she was not on her period.

    Bear ripped into the tent, grabbed her out screaming.

    An adult came running and shot the bear with a pistol. The bear at first showed no care, but eventually released the girl and walked away.

    I will not describe the injuries, just call it a real life horror movie and settle for that. We got her as stable as we could and onto a helicopter.

    The bear was tracked and killed soon after. As in very soon, before the helo arrived two officers with shotguns found it and killed it.

    The necropsy confirmed the bear was male, in excellent health and well fed. No reason could be found other than it simply decided people were not a threat and to try one for breakfast that morning.

    That was the day I quit hiking with just a .22 or 9mm pistol, started carrying the Mossberg.

    Couple of thoughts about bears. You let them eat people food (trash, pet food, whatever) and you are killing the bear. A bear that loses its fear of humans, becomes acclimated to them, will eventually hurt somebody. That’s where the phrase (if you’ve ever seen this sign) “A FED BEAR IS A DEAD BEAR” comes from. Once a bear starts being aggressive or mauls a person, it must be killed. There is no other option that works, it has got to be killed.

    Efforts to chase bears away when they first wander in among campgrounds can work, but it has to be mean and nasty. Shooting them with rubber bullets, bean bags, loud air horn blasts, stuff like that. If the bear runs off and is not seen again, fine.

    If not, kill it quick.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      I’ve heard it said that if the big bears, browns, attack it’s normally because you appeared as a threat to them. And the attack normally ended when you were no longer a threat. Don’t resist, play dead and the animal usually leaves.

      When a black bear attacks it is for food. He plans to eat you after you quit wiggling. Fight as long as you can.

      Polar bears apparently see everything as food. They will go out of their way to get you for a snack.

      Of course I’ve never seen a bear reading a manual of what he was supposed to do in any given situation.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        They don’t usually bother with the manual. And it wouldn’t matter if they did since they’re bearly literate anyway.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          D’oh.

      2. avatar tdiinva says:

        Black bear are indeed more dangerous than grizzlies. Attacksxare more rate but much more dangerous when they occur. You are much more likely to encounter a black bear in Alaska than a big bear. The good news is that a .45 with the right ammo can deal with a black bear.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          Some years back a fellow in Alaska had his house broken into by a brown bear. I have no idea how big it was. He killed it with a .45acp. Out of a Hi Point.

      3. avatar John in AK says:

        The truth of the matter is that the big bears, Grizzlies in particular will only attack you if they’re afraid, if they’re surprised, if they’re protecting their young, if they’re horny, if they’re irritable, if they’re adolescents, if they’re hungry, if they’re in a bad mood, if they’re bored, or just because. Often, after they’ve done what they think is sufficient damage to you, they will not eat you. Until later. Maybe.

        Polar bears, on the other hand, will do many interesting things to you out of curiosity, out of fear, out of dominance, out of hunger, or just because. They are MUCH more likely to consume you. That’s what they DO.

        1. avatar DrewN says:

          To be fair, polar bears are often on the verge of starving, so hard to blame them.

        2. avatar John in AK says:

          That may be ‘fair,’ but it is not true.

          Polar bears are THRIVING. There are more today than there have been in decades. Occasionally, one will run across an emaciated bear–who infallibly is elderly, injured, and/or diseased. That ONE BEAR, photographed ad nauseam, makes for wonderful propaganda to convince people who have NO idea what they’re talking about that the poor bears are ‘starving.’

          The PENGUINS, now, THEY are pretty much wiped out. Rarely do you see the vast herds of migrating penguins that you used to see. Alas.

    2. avatar No_Ones_Home says:

      There was a joke/meme many years ago that went like this:

      What does a bear call a person in a sleeping bag?

      A human burrito.

  7. avatar Ralph says:

    Oh, sure. Blame everything on the BLACK bear why dontcha.

    Polar bear privilege must end!

    1. avatar jwm says:

      If you believe in global warming their privilege is ending.

    2. avatar Vince says:

      OMFG! HA HA HA HA!

  8. avatar NORDNEG says:

    I got that one Ralph,😎 funny.
    Never turn your back on a bear of any color.
    I deal with them every summer, getting ready to leave for my place in the Rockies soon, I’m always ready for the bears,.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Actually, polar bears are black..their skin anyway. Does a polar bear look in the mirror and see a white guy or black? Bored minds want to know.

      1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

        Depends on how he / she / it is identifying that day…!

        1. avatar Ralph says:

          So, a female would be a Rachel Dolezal bear then?

  9. avatar Darkman says:

    No sympathy for anyone in BEAR country without a BIG gun for protection. My only encounter with a bear was in northern Minnesota back in the late 80’s. Bear decided he wanted what was in my buddies tent late one night. Luckily for him a 12 gauge loaded with #4 shot was readily available. Needless to say Yogi didn’t get the “pic-a-nic basket” or him. All the food was locked in a bear box. Suspended about 20 feet up a nearby pole. The bear skin is probably hanging in a DNR office. Sans Head.

  10. avatar MLee says:

    It should have been a defensive bear spray use. It was likely a sow with a cub. When I’m in bear country, I have it all, my .40, my AK, my AR .300 blk and bear spray.
    You know what bothers me the most? Mosquitos.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      I got PTSD from skeeters and No See Ums.

      1. avatar MLee says:

        I was near Yellowstone along Hebgen lake at the Watkins Creek trail head. Skeeters were HORRENDOUS
        I couldn’t get in my RV without 4 or 5 chasing me in after I beat them all back. If I sat beside a screen, there would be twenty stuck to the outside of the screen trying to get in. I must have been in prime skeeter habitat, grass and moisture. Conversely when I was in Oregon for the eclipse, I was up in the mountains and there was none. Not a one. The Hebgen lake trip was essentially ruined because of those mosquitoes.

        1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

          Small world!

          I was in the Vinegar Hill Indian Rock Scenic Area of the Malheur Nat’l Forest for the eclipse. Sitting on top of a mountain at an old, torn-down USFS fire watch site (the tower, even most of the foundation was gone).

          Primo viewing!

          We were dead center in the eclipse track. On the highest peak around for miles. When the sky went dark the 360 degree edge-lit horizon was incredible. Any photos or video just does not do justice to the experience.

          A few other people found the top of the mountain…everyone was cool. A couple of ladies from Portland that taught yoga were giving impromptu classes in the little meadow twice a day leading up to the event. Everyone had a dog(s) who visited each camp for pats on the head. College students, engineers, doctors, a logger, retirees, etc…the 40 or so people waiting for the eclipse represented a pretty good cross-section of the Western USA.

          Thanks for the memory jog.

          Best of all…no bugs…mosquitoes or otherwise.

        2. avatar Darkman says:

          Mosquito’s are the state bird of Minnesota. You know you’re in the shit when you Hear them arise from the woods about sunset. And the sky goes dark not because of the lack of sun. Because they are so thick you can’t see through the cloud they create. They wear Deet for cologne and will carry your carcass off. Once you’re bled dry. Even the Bears don’t mess with them.

    2. avatar M says:

      Mosquitoes always seem to love me, with a passion. Do I have a “batter” blood, do they “sniff” or see me better than other humans in the area, I have no idea. They’re bad here in FL too, water everywhere and perfect climate.

  11. avatar Duane says:

    Black bears are the least affected by bear spray.

    Most likely a predatory attack and no cubs involved..

    1. avatar MLee says:

      Actually nearly all black bear attacks are food related. In other words bears seeking food. And a good bear spray is very effective against black bears, but not all bear sprays are created equal also.

  12. avatar Nanook says:

    Black bears hunt people in Alaska. Don’t believe the old wives tale about black bears being harmless…They kill a handful of people up here every year. Blacks live on the South side of the Brooks Range and everywhere South of there. Don’t jog in bear country for Christ Sake!!!

    1. avatar SE AK guy says:

      This.

      The guy who was mauled most likely was prohibited from having a firearm by his employer. Asinine. But not his fault.

      BUT- that aside- he made a HUGE mistake by jogging away from his first encounter with the bear.

      ***YOU DON’T RUN AWAY FROM PREDATORS***

      Doing so makes them think you’ve judged yourself too weak to defend against an attack; i.e. your best defense is to run. This invites a predatory attack, as it basically declares to the bear “I’ll lose a fight if you start one!” aka “You can kill and eat me if you can catch me!”— the “catch” part being a joke because a healthy human jogger is making lame deer pace at best.

      I live in Alaska on a salmon stream leading to a hatchery. For several months of the year, I generally have 15-40 bears within 200 yds of my front door 24/7. Dealing with them isn’t rocket science. This guy screwed up really badly by resuming his jog (or to the bear’s eyes, his “flight”)

      And for those wondering, yes, this is the sort of encounter where bear spray is highly effective- this was a bear voluntarily attacking (not defending itself after a surprise encounter at close range; not a sow defending cubs). Not that hard to make it voluntarily break off the attack by making it too much trouble/pain via bear spray.

      (And yes, a firearm would’ve been highly effective as well)

      But my biggest point is still this: even had he been carrying a gun, or bear spray, or both: he invited attack with his behavior. Your best defense against bears is always your own behavior and situational awareness. He painted a target on his back when he turned it toward the bear and resumed his jog.

      (I might have an aneurysm if I learn he was wearing headphones while jogging in bear country)

    2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      “Blacks live on the South side…”
      are they starting forest fires and taking all the berries and honey?

      1. avatar jwm says:

        That’s them antifa white supremacists doing all that shit.

  13. avatar Karen says:

    Stop shooting black things, enough is enough!

  14. avatar Dude says:

    Perception is reality. I didn’t worry too much about it in the past. I’ve spent most of my life going into the woods unarmed, and I’ve had countless encounters with black bears. My perception has changed after reading TTAG. You aren’t likely to run into an aggressive black bear in my neck of the woods, but you aren’t likely to run into a machete wielding nut either. Yet both happen. I’d rather be prepared.

  15. avatar Happy Gunsel says:

    You know what bears call a guy on a mountain bike? “Meals On Wheels”.

  16. avatar kap says:

    I live in a small community and have got black bears {Momma bear and three cubs} walking through yard Last 2 years, accidentally kicked a bear in the butt that had knocked over my garbage can and had his head inside munching! thought it was neighbors black lab! it was an old grey beard, He had the most sorrowful expression on his face { I was only trying too get lunch} any way after arming my self with an SKS , I just yelled at him to go away and not come back he never did! neighbor got him during Bear season, tough steak! out wheeling or cutting wood, a 20 gauge with slugs is always handy

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