Bear attacks jogger on Kodiak’s Pillar Mountain

Photo of area based on the Kodiak Police Department’s cell phone tracking system. The green spot marks the location of where the jogger was when he called police for help after the attack.
Photo of area based on the Kodiak Police Department’s cell phone tracking system. The green spot marks the location of where the jogger was when he called police for help after the attack.

A 71-year-old man, known to be an avid runner, was carried off Kodiak’s Pillar Mountain in an ambulance Sunday after a bear attack. Kodiak police say he was jogging on a trail in an open area near a gravel pit.

He had a cell phone and was able to call for help, said Lt. Francis de la Fuente. The call came in at 11:35 a.m. Help arrived in about 15 minutes, but de la Fuente said it was difficult to reach the man.

Guided by his voice, they hiked down a steep incline about a half mile from the road.

“Luckily medics had a gurney with a big wheel, but had to be assisted, of course, by multiple people,” de la Fuente said.

The rescue team had to use a tow rope to pull the man up to an ambulance, which rushed him to Kodiak Providence Island Medical Center.

“Everybody was exhausted,” de la Fuente said, “but they did their job.”

De la Fuente said it’s not clear what prompted the attack. Possibly, the runner surprised the bear or maybe it was defending a deer carcass or some other food.

Dave Zimmerman said the runner was his father, Don Zimmerman, owner of Sutliff Ace Hardware store in Kodiak.  

He said his father didn’t have time to be afraid. The bear came out of nowhere. It attacked, retreated and returned.

He was able to spray it with bear spray, said Dave Zimmerman.

He suffered a bite in the thigh, a puncture wound in his calf and a fracture in his forearm from a bite, Zimmerman said.

He was still hospitalized Monday, but is improving and expected to make a complete recovery.

Zimmerman said his father has run the same stretch of trail for 40 years and never encountered a bear before.

On Sunday, wildlife officials remained on scene to investigate. Efforts to track the bear were hampered by thick brush in the area. In all, three Kodiak police officers, a state trooper and two wildlife troopers were on scene, as well as a number of medics.

De la Fuente said the ground search was suspended later Sunday afternoon, but not before two volunteers with drones, Carl Royall and Father Frank Reiter, a Catholic Priest, searched the area for signs of the bear without success.

In the meantime, signs went up to warn hikers to be on alert for bears.

“Everybody wants to hike,” said de la Fuente, “But hike with a partner. Make noise. Be cautious, because there are bears that are hungry out there.”