JUNEAU, Alaska – It was a brown bear that mauled a university professor on a mountain near Haines, Alaska, while he was teaching a class, a University of Alaska Southeast spokeswoman said.
Forest Wagner, 35, was part of a mountaineering class with 11 students and two teaching assistants on Mount Emmerich when he was attacked by a brown bear sow on Monday, spokeswoman Katie Bausler said.
No one else was hurt, but the class was evacuated from the mountain when the bear, which had cubs, was spotted again, according to Alaska State Troopers.
Troopers coordinated a helicopter rescue into Haines on Monday after a student hiked into cellphone range to report the attack. Wagner was then flown to Anchorage for treatment. He arrived in critical condition, but he was later upgraded to serious condition on Tuesday. A hospital spokesman said he would not give interviews.
Troopers' spokeswoman Megan Peters said details about the specifics of the attack had not yet emerged.
"From what it sounds like, they were spread out," Peters said. "I don't know if anybody actually witnessed the mauling except for the person that was mauled."
It took several hours to get Wagner from the mountain to the hospital. Troopers reported that they were called just before noon, but Wagner wasn't confirmed at the Providence Alaska Medical Center until after 4 p.m.
Wagner was transferred between two helicopters and first reported to be headed to Juneau before being routed to Anchorage. Haines is about 90 miles from Juneau and more than 500 miles from Anchorage.
Peters said the delay is unavoidable when dealing with accidents in rural Alaska. In this case, a student hiked down the mountain, and two troopers in Haines then contracted a helicopter from a company in Juneau that was used to take Wagner to Haines to a waiting medical helicopter.
"People are used to being in urban places where it takes a matter of minutes to get that help," Peters said.
The students spent the night in Haines with another professor and planned to take a ferry back Tuesday to Juneau, Bausler said. They would meet with a counselor later in the week, she said.
Meanwhile, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist was seeking information on the attack and planned to interview the students upon their return to Juneau, spokesman Ken Marsh said.
Wagner has been coordinating and teaching in the university's outdoor studies program since 2006, according to his biography. He teaches rock and ice climbing, backcountry navigation, glacier travel and mountaineering.
His teaching schedule said he planned to leave the mountain by Tuesday.
Wagner is the second man attacked by a bear in Alaska within days. A 77-year-old bear hunter is recovering at an Anchorage hospital from injuries he suffered when a grizzly mauled him in interior Alaska on Friday.