Bear paw print.jpg

This Feb. 13, 2021, photo shows a bear track in the Alaska backcountry near where a bear attacked resident Shannon Stevens.

Alaska woman using outhouse attacked by bear, from below

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaska woman had the scare of a lifetime when using an outhouse in the backcountry and she was attacked by a bear, from below.

“I got out there and sat down on the toilet and immediately something bit my butt right as I sat down,” Shannon Stevens told The Associated Press on Thursday, Feb. 18. “I jumped up and I screamed when it happened.”

Stevens, her brother Erik and his girlfriend had taken snowmobiles into the wilderness Feb. 13 to stay at his yurt, about 20 miles northwest of Haines, in southeast Alaska.

Her brother heard the screaming and went out to the outhouse, about 150 feet away from the yurt. There, he found Shannon tending to her wound. They at first thought she had been bitten by a squirrel or a mink.

Erik had brought his headlamp with him to see what it was.

“I opened the toilet seat and there’s just a bear face just right there at the level of the toilet seat, just looking right back up through the hole, right at me,” he said. “I just shut the lid as fast as I could. I said, ‘There’s a bear down there, we got to get out of here now.’ And we ran back to the yurt as fast as we could.”

Once safely inside, they treated Shannon with a first aid kit. They determined it wasn’t that serious.

“It was bleeding, but it wasn’t super bad,” Shannon said.

The next morning, they found bear tracks, but the bear had left. They figure the bear got in the outhouse through an opening at the bottom of the back door.

“I expect it’s probably not that bad of a little den in the winter,” Shannon said.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Management Biologist Carl Koch said he suspects it was a black bear based upon photos of the tracks he saw and the fact a neighbor living about a half-mile away sent him a photo of a black bear on her property two days later.

That homeowner yelled at the bear but it didn’t react. It also didn’t approach her but lumbered about its business, like it was in a walking hibernation mode.

Even though it’s winter, Koch said they get calls year round about bears.

And 2020 was a record year for general bear problems in the Haines area. Reasons for that, he said, could include the fact it was a poor salmon run year combined with a mediocre berry crop.

— The Associated Press “It is also possible a bear couldn’t put on enough fat when they go in the den, that they might be out and about more often or earlier,” he said.

Koch said the bear could have caused Shannon’s wound by swatting at her with a paw rather than being bitten. Either way, the location might be a first.

“As far as getting swatted on the butt when you’re sitting down in winter, she could be the only person on Earth that this has ever happened to, for all I know,” Koch said.

No matter the season, Erik said he’ll carry bear spray with him all the time when going into the backcountry, and Shannon plans to change one behavior as well.

“I’m just going to be better about looking inside the toilet before sitting down,” she said, “for sure.”

— Associated Press

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