Forest Wagner. (UAS website)

Forest Wagner. (Courtesy UAS)

A university professor is well on his way to a full recovery after being mauled by a bear this spring.

On April 18, University of Alaska Southeast  assistant professor Forest Wagner was mauled by a brown bear while leading a six-day mountaineering course outside Haines.

The incident occurred on the northeast side of Mt. Emmerich. Wagner was on skis and apparently surprised the bear, which charged and attacked. In retrospect, Wagner says he suspects the bear was not hibernating due to an unusually warm spring, and that his ski track likely landed too close to the bear’s den. A bear cub was seen nearby.

Bear biologists have found that many bears across coastal Alaska did not fully hibernate during the past winter. Typically they hibernate into May.

In a release Wagner said he was thankful that the bear did not hurt any of the people he led onto Mt. Emmerich. He said he was grateful for the overwhelming support he’s received since the incident from family, friends, and colleagues.

He said; “It is my privilege and obligation to share and participate in adventure settings in the natural world. I harbor no ill feelings toward the bear.”

After 10 surgeries and ongoing physical rehabilitation, Wagner is now walking around and has even climbed peaks on the weekends in Anchorage where he is living during his recovery. A major injury on his left side will require a skin graft. The release read that medical professionals have indicated that he is healing well and expect him to make a full recovery. Wagner expects to return to Juneau in August in time for the start of the new academic year at UAS.