Wildlife officers still trying to find bear that attacked hiker in Red River Gorge

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Black bear that attacked hiker still at large

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A black bear remained on the loose Tuesday despite traps set after the animal mauled a hiker in the Daniel Boone National Forest, the first recorded bear attack on a human in Kentucky.

State tourism spokeswoman Barbara Atwood said wildlife officers haven’t been able to find the animal that attacked, bit and shook Tim Scott of Springfield on Sunday in a remote area known as the Red River Gorge, near Stanton in eastern Kentucky.

“They had a bear sighting yesterday. However, they could not confirm that it was the bear in question,” Atwood said. “But they feel confident the bear is still in the area.”

Scott, 56, survived and was released from a Lexington hospital Monday, when he spoke with reporters.

Scott said he was hiking in the Red River Gorge Geological Area ahead of his wife and son when he spotted the bear about 25 feet away. He said it appeared to be about 150 pounds and he took a few photos with his cell phone until the bear disappeared under a ledge. Scott said he was about to call his wife to tell her to take another trail when the bear reappeared.

Scott said he yelled and dropped his belt bag hoping to distract the animal. The bear just sniffed the bag and continued approaching Scott, who grabbed a rotted branch and hit the bear. But the animal kept coming.

Eventually, the bear “lunged forward and grabbed me a bit but let go.”

Scott tried to move behind a tree for protection a couple of times, but he said the bear grabbed him by the leg and threw him into the woods. Then, it sank its teeth into his thigh and shook him.

A group of hikers who heard the commotion came to his rescue. One of the hikers threw his day pack at the bear, knocking the animal sideways and prompting it to release Scott.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources said it was the first recorded bear attack on a person in the state.

Wildlife Division Director Karen Waldrop said the agency’s policy is to kill any bear that behaves aggressively toward humans, and officials have closed the popular scenic area and set traps to try to capture the animal.

Atwood said the closure also will help keep the bear from being scared out of the area.

Black bears were common in Kentucky more than 100 years ago but disappeared due to over-hunting and loss of habitat. Over the past 20 years, they have found their way back from neighboring states such as Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Scott, an avid hiker who has a property management company in Lexington, said he supports efforts to repopulate the woods with the animals.

“I was chomped on by a bear, and he was a bad bear, but that doesn’t speak of all bears,” he said.


Red River Gorge Geological Area: www.fs.fed.us/r8/boone/districts/cumberland/redriver_gorge.shtml

Bear safety: www.fs.fed.us/r8/boone/safety/critters/bearsafe.shtml

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