The power of friendship (and bear spray) saves a biker’s life in Alaska

June 28, 2017 2:04 pm Last Updated: June 28, 2017 2:04 pm


A cyclist in Alaska survived an attack from a mother bear thanks to the power of friendship, as well as the amazingly effective nature of bear spray.

The two friends, Alex Ippoliti and James Fredrick,  were riding their bikes on a gravel road at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, a U.S. military facility in Anchorage, Alaska, when they found themselves attacked by a bear. The bear immediately went after Fredrick and managed to pull him off of his bike.

Bear attacks are rare, but can be dangerous, especially if a mother bear is protecting her cub.

Ippoliti, who was a member of the Air Force and had been at the base that day as part of a recreation program, had never encountered a bear before, despite regularly biking in the area. Fortunately, they were prepared for the attack. According to ABC News, “We had bear bells on and there was a lot of visibility on the gravel road as we were coming down,” Ippoliti explained, “We didn’t see the bear until she attacked. I had bear spray in a pack on my bike and it was very easy to get it from there, fortunately.”

Riders in bear country are encouraged to use bear bells and carry bear spray.

“When she dropped him, she turned toward me and I was able to spray the bear,” he added. Although the spray caused the bear to leave into the undergrowth, they still had to leave the area as quickly as possible despite Fredrick’s injuries. A cub was spotted in a nearby tree, so it was apparent that this was a mother bear who wanted to protect her child.

This video shows the aftermath of the bear attack.

“There were a couple times I thought we should stop, but James kept telling me: ‘We have to keep going,” Ippoliti explained. After about ten minutes, they could no longer hear the bear. Ippoliti then got to work tending to Fredrick’s wounds to stop the bleeding, as well as contacting 911 for help.

Fredrick was taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage after meeting with an environmental conservation officer. Fortunately, he is in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery.

Watch this video to find out how to use bear spray.

Ippoliti said his son later encountered a black bear the following day, but no one was hurt in the encounter. “It’s a perception lately that there seems to be more [bear attacks] than normal. Everyone is kind of on edge about it right now,” Ippoliti added. “I still plan to go ride and do whatever I can to be smart about it and stay prepared so that I can be safe.”