Bear attack victim is missing part of scalp, doc says - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Bear attack victim is missing part of scalp, doc says

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PAYSON, Ariz. -

In the past 20 years, there have only been 10 bear attacks in Arizona. But 3 of those 10 attacks have happened in the past 2 months. The latest happened over the weekend.

Two of those attacks happened at the Ponderosa Campground near Payson.

That campground and two others -- Christopher Creek and Sharp Creek -- are now shut down because of those attacks.

We spoke with Arizona Game and Fish about the problem, and also the doctor who treated one of the victims.

The latest victim remains in serious but stable condition at Scottsdale Health Care-Osborn.

Doctor Frank Mitchell operated on 30-year-old Peter Baca. The man survived a bear attack at the Ponderosa Campground while his fiance and child escaped from the tent unharmed.

He spent several hours in surgery for wounds on his hands, arms, and head.

"The most impressive injury was the scalp injury that he had, where the tissue on his head was torn in multiple places, and there was a big flap of tissue," says Dr. Mitchell.

This marks the third bear attack in just a matter of weeks. Sunday, officials with Arizona Game and Fish hunted down and killed two bears, one male and one female.

"Once a bear because habituated to humans... once a bear goes to a campground or house to get food, it is a problem bear, and our department policy is to remove them from the population," says AZ Game and Fish spokesperson Jim Paxon.

The bears' DNA will be tested against DNA found on the victims. The department has also shut down several campgrounds in the area.

As for Baca, he is lucky to be alive. The biggest concern for him is the possibility of infection -- otherwise he is expected to make a full recovery.

Several families were there when the bear attacked and got up close and personal with it.

A lot of them are still in disbelief that this all happened.

The people we talked to had all different levels of experience with camping. For some, this was their first time, another had been camping for years. But one thing they all had in common was they really took the warnings from the wildlife officials seriously -- and it's probably what saved their lives.

"It still seems so surreal, I still feel like I was dreaming," said camper Carly Stoltenberg.

Just minutes before a bear attacked Baca's tent, it paid a visit to Carly Stoltenberg's campsite. She and her friends woke up to the sound of screams.

"Probably within a minute maybe less I saw this dark shadow creep up behind my husband," said Kim Bress.

Kim Bress' husband came face to face with the bear. Their tent was shredded. She says he was just slightly bigger than Carly's dog.

"They were like eye level. My husband looked behind him and said 'bear,' yelled 'ah bear,' just started yelling 'bear bear bear!'"

But because wildlife officials had come through previously and told them exactly what to do in this situation, they were ready.

"Ok if there's a bear, wave your arms not act like a victim," said Carly.

And that's exactly what they did. All the yelling and commotion eventually scared the bear away.

A scary experience that might prevent Carly's family from returning to that particular site -- but it won't stop them from camping forever.

"It's not enough to deter us from ever camping again. We did talk about getting an RV at some point."

Though for some of her friends -- it was their first camping trip, and possibly their last.

"To have this be my first camping trip, I think it'll be a long while before you see me camping again," said Shannon Parys.

And of course these women and their families are praying for that Tempe man who was attacked. He remains in serious but stable condition after several hours of surgery.

Officials believe the bears are wandering close to civilization because of the drought.

UPDATE: Authorities have killed two bears in the Tonto National Forest.  They're conducting tests to determine if those are the bears involved in the recent attacks.

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