While training in the woods near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Sergeant Lucas Wendeborn was attacked by a brown bear. This is the second bear attack on a soldier from the base in the last two months.
Reuters reported that Wendeborn, 26, had been navigating through thick woods when he encountered the bear and its two cubs.
“Sergeant Lucas Wendeborn suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the attack on Sunday morning while he was participating in a navigation exercise,” Command Sergeant Major Alan Feaster of the Alaska Army National Guard said in a written statement.
According to SFGate, Major Candis Olmstead said “Wendeborn was not armed and had no ammunition. But he was well-shielded by the helmet, load-bearing equipment and a reflective safety vest with ammunition patches.”
“The gear that was over him, it probably had some impact on protecting him some,” Olmstead said.
In the dense woods, Wendeborn moved around a tree and only a few yards away the bear popped out of the brush. The two made eye contact. “It appeared that he and the bear startled each other,” said Olmstead.
Having attended a bear-safety briefing only earlier that day, Wendeborn immediately dropped to the ground. The bear attacked, picking him up by the hip and throwing him. The bear swatted and bit at him a few times before leaving him alone after about 30 seconds.
Afterward, Wendeborn waited a few seconds to make sure the bear was gone and then alerted officials with his safety whistle. He made his way back to a road where medics took him to a nearby hospital.
Officials said Wendeborn, a Valdez, Alaska resident, suffered lacerations to his shoulder, back and chest, plus several puncture wounds.
“Sergeant Wendeborn said this was a textbook example of a worst-case scenario,” Feaster said in the statement. “He said, ‘I remember exactly what I was told and did exactly what I was told, and it probably saved my life.’”
“Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game investigated the mauling and determined the bear posed no risk to public safety,” said wildlife biologist Jessy Coltrane.