Black bear that attacked workers near Pogo Mine was behaving like a predator

The adult male black bear on June 19 attacked two workers conducting field work near the Pogo Mine, located in a remote spot in the upper Goodpaster River valley about 38 miles northeast of Delta Junction. (CBC/Google Maps)

Experts with the state Department of Fish and Game say the black bear that attacked two workers last month near the Pogo Mine was hungry and showing predator-like behavior.

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“It was a healthy adult male that hadn’t eaten in some time,” Doreen Parker McNeill said. She’s a Fairbanks Fish and Game coordinator. “It was not defending a kill. And the nature of the attack appears to have been predatory.”

McNeill said it’s rare for bears to exhibit that kind of behavior. She says the attack on two Pogo Mine contractors who were conducting field work at a remote site about five miles from the main camp on June 19 is only the fourth such report of such behavior among 208 bear attacks reported between 1980 and 2014.

“It’s not very common for predatory attacks to happen,” McNeill said, “but they do happen.”

One of the workers, 27-year-old Erin Johnson, of Anchorage, died of injuries she sustained in the attack. The other, 39-year-old Ellen Trainor, of Fairbanks, was treated and released from Fairbanks Memorial Hospital on the evening of the 19th. The bear was shot dead by an employee of the mine, located about 38 miles northeast of Delta Junction.

The attack was the second in as many days. On June 18, a 16-year-old competing in a race on an Anchorage-area trail was killed by a black bear as the runner made his way back after the race had ended.

Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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