PHOENIX, Ariz. — The doctor credited with saving the life of Maine lawyer Matthew Dyer after a polar bear attack in Canada said he initially thought Dyer had little chance of surviving.

Dr. Richard Isenberg told the television station CBS 5 in Phoenix, Ariz., that when he saw the polar bear gripping Dyer’s head and neck in its mouth, he thought the injuries would be fatal.

“Matt is a very lucky man because of the kind of wounds he had. He should have been dead 10 times over,” Isenberg told reporter Adam Longo on Thursday.

Dyer, an attorney for Pine Tree Legal Assistance, is still recuperating at Montreal General Hospital.

Dyer said in a letter to the editor of the Portland Press Herald, in response to another reader’s letter, that if he had had a gun, it would not have stopped the bear attack.

“Even if I had had an AK-47 in my tent, I never would have had time to use it,” he said. “I was saved by a lot of good luck and brave companions.”

Dyer’s wife, Jeanne Wells, said Friday that she and her husband will be “friends for life” with Isenberg and the other members of the group. 

Isenberg and Dyer were taking part in a Sierra Club excursion to Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador last month. Members of the group were sleeping in tents in the Nachvak Fjord area on July 24, the third night of the trip, when they woke to the sound of Dyer screaming.

Isenberg told the TV station that he saw the bear pulling Dyer’s tent away from the group, then pulling Dyer from the tent.

The tents had been surrounded by an electrified fence designed to keep away bears, which are plentiful in the park at this time of year, but the bear managed to break through the fence.

The group, seven people in all, also had flares and small explosive devices designed to scare off bears, Isenberg said.

“We were being stalked. And what happened that night was a hunt,” Isenberg told the station.

Members of the group fired flares and scared off the bear, which dropped Dyer.

“We were all terrified the bear was going to come back. And we had to go retrieve our friend,” Isenberg said.

Dyer was seriously wounded, Isenberg said. “He didn’t have any scratches on his feet or legs. That bear never let him touch the ground. (The bear) carried him 50 yards,” Isenberg said.

Isenberg cared for Dyer for six hours until a park helicopter arrived to evacuate them. Dyer was ultimately flown to Montreal General Hospital.

Wells said Thursday that her husband was scheduled to have jaw surgery on Friday or Saturday and that the couple hoped to return home to Turner soon.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: dhench@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @mainehenchman