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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Man, dog fend off bear attack in Alaska

Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A man walking his dog down an overgrown trail southeast of his Chugach Foothills neighborhood Tuesday evening was attacked by a grizzly sow.

"I hadn't taken one or two steps when the bear burst out of the brush," Gary Paterna said Wednesday. "It charged down and then it stopped."

The grizzly sow, with at least one cub, charged Paterna, swatted his chest and knocked him to the ground. But Paterna's dog, a 9-year-old Brittany spaniel named Tok, drew the bear's attention.

The bear pounced on the dog, giving Paterna time to leap to this feet.

"What I remember was just how big the head was - it seemed enormous," Paterna said later.

Twice more, the bear knocked him down, but Tok's presence seemed to interrupt each attack.

After the third hit, the bear bolted up the trail, allowing Paterna and Tok to run for the a trail.

The encounter was perhaps 1,200 yards from suburban homes and lawns.

Paterna, 60, suffered scrapes and a sore hip where he'd fallen, plus five scratches from the bear's claws and a purple bruise across his chest.

His dog, Tok, didn't appear hurt at all.

"We were pretty much face-to-face. I thought, 'Here it comes. She's going to chew on me.' But she backed off," said Paterna. "It's great to be alive."

Paterna said he plans to carry a larger can of bear spray in the future and practice firing it. And he will avoid overgrown trails with poor visibility.

The bear left a muddy paw print on his old T-shirt.

"It's got a beautiful claw mark," Paterna said. "I think I'm going to get that one framed."

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