A grizzly bear mauled the former fire chief for the city of Nome during a weekend hunting trip, leaving the 54-year-old in critical condition Monday in a Seattle hospital.
Wes Perkins was spring bear hunting with two others when he was mauled.
Wes Perkins had been tracking the bear with friends on snowmachines Sunday east of the Seward Peninsula city when the big grizzly charged, according to Alaska State Troopers. Perkins' companions shot and killed the animal during the attack.
"He was taking a photo or something when this occurred," said Matt Johnson, who replaced Perkins as the volunteer fire chief in 2007.
The hunters called for help on a hand-held radio at about 2 p.m., said Bering Air helicopter pilot Ben Rowe. Rowe landed a Robinson R44 at a snowy creek about two-thirds of the way between Nome and Council.
Perkins was badly hurt, including severe injuries to his face. Medics held his shoulders as he walked to the helicopter and Rowe could hear the doctors talking to Perkins as he flew across the snowy tundra and rolling hills back to Nome.
"I'm going to ask you some questions. Squeeze (your hand) once for yes or twice for no.' Something like that," Rowe recalled.
Rescuers shuttled Perkins to a hospital in Nome. Soon he was flying by King Air to Anchorage and then on a Learjet to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Rowe said.
Perkins -- a lifelong Nome resident -- underwent emergency surgery Monday morning as his wife, children and other family gathered in Seattle. Doctors told the family that the care Perkins received as medics rushed him from flight to flight saved his life, said Casey Perkins, the injured man's son.