Bear attack victim drives herself to hospital

Last updated 11:34 15/08/2014

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A 57-year-old woman drove herself to a hospital after she was mauled by a brown bear in Alaska.

Wildlife troopers were notified on Tuesday afternoon that Thea Thomas of Cordova was attacked by the bear while hiking on Heney Ridge Trail in the Cordova area.

Thomas sustained substantial injuries, but they were not believed to be life-threatening, according to state troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters.

"The trooper told me that when she checked herself into the hospital, he said it was almost like the people who were working on her were more shocked than she was," Peters said. "The trooper said she was very pragmatic and calm about everything."

Peters said she was unable to discuss the woman's specific injuries because of privacy issues.

Thomas was listed in fair condition on Wednesday at an Anchorage hospital, where she was transferred after checking in at her local hospital.

Salmon were actively spawning in a nearby stream as Thomas hiked alone with her dog and a friend's dog, Peters said. 

The dogs ran off then soon sprinted back to her chased by a bear, which she estimated to be between 182 to 213 cm (6 to 7 feet), reared on its hind legs.

The bear noticed Thomas and attacked her multiple times. The dogs took off again as Thomas was being mauled.

She told the Alaska Dispatch News she was bitten about seven times, the worst to her back and inner thigh.

"I started to hear this growling," Thomas told the newspaper from hospital. "By the end, I was thinking, 'I could die here'."

After the attack, Thomas walked nearly two and a half kilometres back to her truck. She found one of the dogs while walking back and the other dog was waiting at her vehicle. After arriving in the local hospital, Thomas was eventually flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, about 250 km northwest of Cordova.

Thomas declined a request for an interview with The Associated Press.

Troopers said the trail is now closed for a week. There are no plans to look for the bear.

The attack did not appear to be predatory in nature, according to Peters, who noted the attack was likely prompted by the dogs in an area where salmon have already begun to die.

"The thought process is that the bear was more than likely being irritated by the dogs and also protecting its food source," she said. "So it was a bear being a bear."

- Reuters and AP

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