Contract Alaska pipeline worker mauled by black bear

Black Bear (Image from ADF&G)

JUNEAU, Alaska (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 attack happened 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.

Pump Station 5, near Coldfoot. Photo courtesy of 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 Sunday was “very likely” the animal involved in the mauling. Messages seeking comment were left for Fish and Game.

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

Precautions include herding bears away with vehicles and keeping garbage inside buildings and outdoor areas clean.

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