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Twin Cities man 'severely' mauled by bears in Wyoming

MINNEAPOLIS — A Twin Cities man was mauled by one or more bears as he backpacked with others in the mountains of northern Wyoming and suffered numerous severe injuries, authorities said Tuesday.

The attack occurred Sunday afternoon in the Beartooth Mountains just south of the Montana border, according to the Park County Sheriff's Office.

Bradley D. Johnson, 48, of Plymouth, received "severe injuries to his arm, shoulder and back," Sheriff's Office spokesman Lance Mathess said.

Two of his companions on the Muddy Creek Trail in the Shoshone National Forest hiked out to get help while a third stayed behind with Johnson, Mathess said.

A woman called the Sheriff's Office from a store in nearby Cody about 3:40 p.m. and reported coming upon the two backpackers who said Johnson "had been mauled by a grizzly bear" roughly two hours earlier, Mathess said.

According to the Sheriff's Office, a rescue helicopter and airplane were dispatched and quickly found Johnson. The chopper landed as close as it could, about a mile from Johnson and the companion who stayed with him.

Medics hiked in to the scene, stabilized Johnson's wounds and carried him to the helicopter, which flew him to St. Vincent Hospital in Billings, Mont. He was in fair condition Tuesday morning, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Because of the limited space on the helicopter, Johnson's companion, 45-year-old Justin Reed, of Medina, was left behind until a ground rescue team went in about 7 p.m. Sunday and guided him out about 2:15 a.m. Monday.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department said in a statement: "This appears to be a surprise encounter between the individual and two bears. The man ... was backpacking with three other people ... ahead of the group when he encountered two bears at close range."

The encounter occurred too quickly for Johnson to use the bear spray he was carrying to fend off the animals, the department statement continued, adding that the specific species of bear has yet to be determined.

Asked how often her agency sees incidents of bears mauling people, department spokeswoman Rebekah Fitzgerald said there are "a few a year."

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