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10 Seconds of Terror: Man Attacked by Bear in Alaska Wilderness Lives to Tell the Tale

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Allen Minish was alone and surveying land for a real estate agent in a wooded, remote part of Alaska, putting some numbers into his GPS unit when he looked up and saw a large brown bear walking about 30 feet away.

“I saw him and he saw me at the same time, and it’s scary,” Minish said by phone on Wednesday from his hospital bed in Anchorage, a day after being attacked by the bear.

The mauling left Minish with a crushed jaw, a puncture wound in his scalp so deep that the doctor said he could see his skull, lacerations and many stitches after a 4½-hour surgery. He also is wearing a patch over his right eye.

All that happened during a chance encounter Minish estimates lasted less than 10 seconds after he startled the bear on Tuesday morning near the small community of Gulkana, about 190 miles northeast of Anchorage.

The bear, which Minish said was larger than 300-pound black bears he has seen before, charged and closed the ground between them in a few seconds.

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Minish tried to dodge behind small spruce trees. That didn’t stop the bear. He went through them.

As the bear neared, Minish held up the pointed end of his surveying pole and thrust it toward the bear to keep it away from him.

The bear simply knocked it aside and the force of the blow knocked Minish to the ground.

Have you ever seen a wild bear?

“As he lunged up on top of me, I grabbed his lower jaw to pull him away,” he said, saying that’s how he got a puncture wound in his hand. “But he tossed me aside there, grabbed a quarter of my face.”

“He took a small bite and then he took a second bite, and the second bite is the one that broke the bones … and crushed my right cheek basically,” he said.

When the bear let go, Minish turned his face to the ground and put his hands over his head.

And then the bear just walked away. Alaska State Troopers said later they did not locate it.

Minish surmises the bear left because he no longer perceived him as a threat. That gave him time to assess the damage.

“I realized I was in pretty bad shape because I had all this blood everywhere,” he said.

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He called 911 on his cellphone. While he was talking to a dispatcher, he pulled off his surveyor’s vest and his T-shirt and wrapped them around his head in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

Then he waited 59 minutes for help to arrive. He knows that’s how long it took because he later checked his cellphone record for the length of the time he was told to stay on the line with the dispatcher until rescue arrived.

At one point, Minish managed to give the dispatcher his exact coordinates from his GPS unit, but even that was a struggle.

“It took a while to give them that because I had so much blood flowing into my eyes and onto the GPS, I kept having to wipe it all off,” he said.

He said one of the rescuers called him a hero after seeing how much blood was on the ground.

Rescuers tried to carry him through the woods to a road that parallels the nearby trans-Alaska pipeline to meet an ambulance. That didn’t work, and he said they had to help him walk a quarter-mile through swamps, brush and trees.

From there, he was taken to a nearby airport and flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage by a medical helicopter. He is listed in good condition.

Before help arrived, Minish said he worried about the bear returning to finish him off.

“I kept hearing stuff,” he said.

But every time Minish tried to lean up to look around, he got dizzy from his blood loss.

“He didn’t come back, and so I just lay there and worried about it,” he said.

Minish, 61, has had his share of bear encounters over the 40 years he’s lived in Alaska, but nothing like this. He owns a surveying and engineering business, which takes him into the wild often.

“That’s the one lesson learned,” he said. “I should have had somebody with me.”

He had left his gun in his vehicle but said it wouldn’t have mattered because the bear moved in too fast for it to have been any use.

Minish can now add his name to the list of six people he knows who have been mauled by bears in Alaska.

“I guess I feel lucky,” Minish said.

“In all honesty, it wouldn’t have mattered either way. You know, if it killed me, it killed me. I had a good life. I’m moving on. It didn’t kill me, so now let’s move on to the other direction of trying to stay alive,” he said.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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