Please note: This story has been updated to include information about the rescue and the runner’s condition.
A elderly man, known to be an avid runner, was carried off Pillar Mountain in an ambulance Sunday after a bear attack. Kodiak police say he was jogging on a trail in an open area near a gravel pit.
Lt. Francis de la Fuente says the man had a cell phone and was able to call 911 for help. The call came in at 11:35 a.m. Help arrived in about 15 minutes, but Lt. de la Fuente said it was difficult to reach the man.
Guided by his voice, they hiked down a steep incline about a half mile from the road.
“Luckily medics had a gurney with a big wheel, but had to be assisted, of course, by multiple people.”
The rescue team had to use a tow rope to pull the man up to the ambulance, which rushed him to Kodiak Providence Island Medical Center. Information about the man’s condition is not immediately available, but a family member he remains hospitalized, but his condition is improving and is expected to make a full recovery.
“Everybody was exhausted,” Lt. de la Fuente said, “but they did their job.”
Lt. de la Fuente says it’s not clear what prompted the attack. Possibly, the runner surprised the bear or maybe it was defending a deer carcass or some other food.
Wildlife officials remained on on scene to investigate. Efforts to track the bear were hampered by thick brush in the area. In all, three Kodiak police officers, a state trooper and two wildlife troopers were on scene, as well as a number of medics.
Lt. de la Fuente said the ground search was suspended later in the afternoon, but not before two volunteers with drones, Carl Royall and Father Frank Reiter, a Catholic Priest, searched the area for signs of the bear without success.
In the meantime, signs went up to warn hikers to be on alert for bears.
“Everybody wants to hike,” said de la Fuente, “But hike with a partner. Make noise. Be cautious, because there are bears that are hungry out there.”