Black bear mauls Alyeska pipeline contract worker out for a run near pump station

BY Herschel Smith
1 month, 1 week ago

News from Alaska.

A black bear mauled a contract worker for the trans-Alaska pipeline last week near a pump station in the area of Prospect Creek, officials said Tuesday.

The man the bear attacked Friday evening was seriously hurt but is expected to recover. The bear, which was later killed, appeared to be hungry but not emaciated, said Glenn Stout, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Michael Becwar, 53, of Wasilla notified security staff that he was going for a jog shortly after a 6 p.m. shift change, said Katie Pesznecker with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. He headed down a road outside the station that connects to a small airstrip. Pesznecker said employees often exercise along the road.

When Becwar hadn’t returned from jogging 80 minutes later, security guards started looking for him.

They found Becwar along the road with serious injuries, Pesznecker said. The bear was no longer at the scene. Medics at the pump station treated Becwar immediately and performed what Pesznecker described as life-saving treatment so he could be flown to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 160 miles south.

Becwar was in the hospital over the weekend, Pesznecker said. She did not have an update on his condition Tuesday but said he is expected to recover.

Stout, with Fish and Game, said the attack was considered to be predatory because Becwar told officials he saw the bear from several hundred yards away during his jog, and he stopped to make noise and ensure the bear heard and saw him before continuing to exercise.

While he was returning from his jog, he encountered the bear again, Stout said. The bear, alone, wasn’t surprised by Becwar and was acting defensively, Stout said.

“It was very, very fast. He saw the bear and seconds later it attacked him,” Pesznecker said. “He didn’t really have time to think about it or react.”

Becwar did everything right during the encounter and the attack that followed, Stout said.

“He fought off the bear pretty hard, and that may have saved his life,” he said. “The bear had tried to drag him off the road and back into the woods, but he didn’t want that to happen — he wanted to stay on the road. He had a pocket knife that he took out to help fend off the bear, and at some point the bear seemed to end the attack.”

There was concern that the bear would go after other employees, so security guards returned to the scene of the mauling Saturday with advice from Fish and Game officials to shoot the bear if they saw it, Pesznecker said.

Security staff saw the bear and shot at it once. Pesznecker said it fell to the ground but quickly jumped back up and ran into the woods before they had time to fire another shot.

They returned Sunday to clean up the scene and look for the bear again, Pesznecker said. An employee flying above in helicopter saw the bear approaching security guards on the ground and notified them. Pesznecker said the bear was shot three times before it went down.

Well, I don’t think he did everything right.  I’d be carrying a large bore handgun.

I have written the AP reporter who authored this report and asked her what weapon was used and what caliber.

She wrote back immediately and stated that she didn’t know, but gave me the contact information of the plant.  I have contacted them with these same questions.

If I get a response I’ll let you know.  Both I and Dean Weingarten would be very interested in that information.


Comments

  1. On June 3, 2020 at 10:12 pm, Elmo said:

    Alaska- “One of the few places I’ve ever worked where you have to pay attention so that something doesn’t eat you.”
    Forrest Cole, Tongass National Forest Supervisor (retired)

  2. On June 3, 2020 at 10:53 pm, TheAlaskan said:

    Most likely he isn’t allowed to have a firearm in his possession while on Company property.
    Standard rule for employees at remote oil work stations in Alaska.

    I’ve worked at remote sites with those rules, but I still smuggled in my 44. They don’t search your bags.

    If you’re caught, you will be terminated immediately.

  3. On June 4, 2020 at 6:05 am, Ron said:

    I agree about him not being allowed to have a firearm.
    I spent a year or so up at Prudhoe Bay, and you definitely were not allowed to have a firearm.
    Made this Tarheel mighty uncomfortable traveling 4500 miles each way without a weapon to speak of, except for the 90 odd miles to and from Charlotte international Airport.
    Polar bears in the dark was my personal phobia.

  4. On June 4, 2020 at 8:32 am, Fred said:

    Same as the last post about a black. Saw the bear and CONTINUED ON anyway. Sigh. He didn’t do everything right at all. Armed with a pocket knife, but even if armed with a gun, going back the way you came loudly would have been the right thing to do.

    And NO, the bear was not hungry, maybe somewhat hungry but this seems way more like a territory thing than a hunger thing. Hungry bears are breathtakingly aggressive and take prey with astonishing rapidity.

    The guy, bless his heart, said that it was very very fast and that he didn’t have time to think about it. Well, seriously, come on, the bear let him go by the first time granting him a good run out to the airstrip and whatever, then saw the guy coming back again and probably thought; this guy ain’t bright, I’m a bear, I’m foraging here based on elevation and seasonality, and apparently this guy even after seeing me the first time still don’t get it.

    Look, bears establish temporary territories based upon food availability due to seasonality and elevation factors among others and may be in an area for 3 days or a week or whatever. If you see a bear it doesn’t mean that it’s on the move to somewhere.

    The bear was more than equitable, as far as bear think probably goes, but the guy came back! That’s a threat as far as a bear is concerned. Think about it, if you saw the same guy in your yard TWICE…

    They should move everything away from the inside of the fence line or move the fences out five feet and have a parameter track inside, if that’s the set up at all. Nothing attracts a predator like a prancing dear or person, nothing, except a person acting as prey by kneeling down or such by a water source, both are prey behavior.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Animals and was published June 3rd, 2020 by Herschel Smith.

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