ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A brown bear mauled two wilderness guides who were leading a hiking excursion in Alaska after the group came between the female animal and her cub in the Tongass National Forest, state troopers said Friday.
The guides — a man and a woman — were rescued by the Coast Guard after being injured Thursday on a trail on Chichagof Island about 30 miles north of Sitka in southeast Alaska. Troopers said the bears left the area after one of the victims used pepper spray.
Authorities said they have no plans to hunt down the bear, and the guides' employer said their injuries were not life-threatening though one of the two was airlifted to Seattle and undergoing treatment in intensive care.
Forest Service law enforcement officers and state wildlife troopers have determined the attack was a defensive, non-predatory move and the bear will not be pursued at this time, said Sitka District Ranger Perry Edwards.
Bears are common in the area near a stream filled with salmon at this time of the year who have headed to the area to spawn and die, he said.
"We're right in the middle of the season," Edwards said. "The bears are going to go to that protein source."
The names of the guides were not immediately made public.
Officials said they are crew members of the 74-passenger cruise vessel Wilderness Explorer and were leading 22 people on the hike in southeast Alaska.
The injured woman was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she was listed Friday in serious condition in intensive care, according to hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg, who said she could not provide details about the woman's injuries.
Both guides were initially transported by helicopter to Sitka for emergency medical treatment for multiple injuries and severe lacerations, the Coast Guard said.
The male guide was treated at a Sitka hospital and released, according to Sarah Scoltock, a spokeswoman with Seattle-based UnCruise Adventures, the vessel operator. No one else was injured, Scoltock said.
She also would not provide details about the injuries suffered by the guides except to say they were not life-threatening.
Travel blogger Patti Morrow of Greenville, South Carolina, hiked the island on Aug. 10 when her tour group spotted a mother bear and her cub. They hiked down to get a better view of them and observed them from across a stream.
"I was never worried, I was totally in awe!" she said. "I felt safe the whole time — the bears never so much as raised their heads to look at us."