Shannon Stevens was using an outhouse in the backcountry when a bear attacked her from below the structure, the Associated Press reports. “I got out there and sat down on the toilet and immediately something bit my butt right as I sat down,” she recalled. “I jumped up and I screamed when it happened.”
Stevens was traveling with her brother Erik and his girlfriend, with them taking snowmobiles into the rural area on Feb. 13 to stay at his yurt that’s situated in southeast Alaska. When Erik heard his sister yelling, he took a headlamp and went to the outhouse that sits about 150 feet from the yurt. They both thought she had been bitten by a smaller animal, like a squirrel or mink.
“I opened the toilet seat and there’s just a bear face just right there at the level of the toilet seat, just looking right back up through the hole, right at me,” he said. “I just shut the lid as fast as I could. I said, ‘There’s a bear down there, we got to get out of here now.’ And we ran back to the yurt as fast as we could.”
They tended to Shannon’s wound when they got back inside, which wasn’t too serious. The morning after, they discovered bear tracks in the vicinity, though the bear was nowhere to be found. “You could see them across the snow, coming up to the side of the outhouse,” Shannon said.
They suspected that the bear entered the structure through a gap at the bottom of the back door. “I expect it’s probably not that bad of a little den in the winter,” she said.
According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Management Biologist Carl Koch, a neighbor who lives around a half-mile away also reported seeing a black bear near her home two days later. Koch believes it to be a black bear based on photos of the tracks. The neighbor said that the bear wasn’t bothered when she yelled at it, as if it was in a dormant state.
Koch said that even though bears should be hibernating right now, they are still getting calls about sightings, which he thinks is due to a poor salmon run this year and a second-rate berry crop. He also believes that the bear didn’t bite Shannon, but actually swatted at her with his paw.
“As far as getting swatted on the butt when you’re sitting down in winter, she could be the only person on Earth that this has ever happened to, for all I know,” Koch said.