A Grizzly Week In Alaska

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

June 29, 2005

A Grizzly Week In Alaska

Grizzly bears clawed their way into the national headlines this week, beginning with the fatal attack of two seasoned wilderness campers Saturday at Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We also have the report of another Alaskan bear close call, a story about a new program to make it easier to introduce youngsters to the joys of hunting, and more!

J.R. Absher

A Predatory Attack

An Anchorage attorney and his retired schoolteacher wife, both known as cautious veterans of the Alaska wilderness, were the victims of a rare, unprovoked attack by a predatory grizzly bear in Alaska’s remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge last week.

Richard and Katherine Huffman were killed while in their tent, camped along the Hulahula River near the end of a two-week wilderness float trip by inflatable kayak. Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials who investigated the incident reported that the victims’ camp was carefully arranged, with food stored in bear-proof containers far from their tent.

“All the indications now are it was a predatory attack. It just hardly ever happens,” Fish and Game spokesman Bruce Bartley told the Anchorage Daily News. “Even more baffling is that these people had taken all the precautions.”

According to Tim DeSpain, spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers, an unfired gun was also found inside the tent. The bear was shot and killed by officers at the site Saturday night.

Lucky To Be Alive

Also in Alaska last week, two fisheries biologists consider themselves lucky to be alive after they were charged by an Alaska Brown bear while they were doing routine radio telemetry surveys at the headwaters of the Berners River. Biologist Kent Crabtree fired two rounds from his .338-caliber rifle at the charging brownie, thankfully watching as it crumbled in the river less than 10 feet from where he and partner Wayne Lonn stood.

Fish and Game wildlife biologist Neil Barten, who later measured the bear’s skull, reported that it was the largest recorded in that wildlife management unit, which extends about 100 miles up the Alaska mainland coast.

“It was a big bear racing right at them,” said Barten. “My guess is it was at least 20 years old.”

A report about the incident in the Juneau Empire noted that Crabtree said he did not notice how big the bear was when it was running toward him.

“I was thinking how small I was,” he said.

Animal Rights Hypocrisy

Last week, two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (P.E.T.A.) were arrested in North Carolina on 31 felony animal-cruelty charges for allegedly killing and disposing of animal carcasses illegally.

When Ahoskie, N.C., police arrested P.E.T.A. employees Andrew Cook and Adria Hinkle, they reportedly discovered 18 dead dogs in a nearby shopping-center dumpster (including a bag containing seven dead puppies), and 13 more dead dogs in the P.E.T.A.-owned van the two were driving. Police observed them throwing several dark-colored bags into the dumpster before the arrests were made.

According to reports, the two had earlier picked up the animals at a North Carolina animal shelter, saying they were going to adopt the animals to families who wanted to care for them.

“This is disturbing behavior on the part of self-professed animal lovers, and I hope the public takes notice,” said David Martosko, Director of Research for the Center for Consumer Freedom, a long-standing critic of P.E.T.A. and its programs. “P.E.T.A. raked in nearly $29 million last year alone, but apparently it couldn’t spare any money to care for the flesh-and-blood animals entrusted to its employees. It’s ironic — if anyone else were caught red-handed with 31 dead dogs, P.E.T.A. would be holding a press conference to denounce them.

“Now it’s clearer than ever that Americans who truly want to help animals should donate to their local animal shelter, not to P.E.T.A.,” added Martosko.

Taking A Kid Hunting Made Easier

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty recently signed legislation that allows hunters younger than 12 years of age to try turkey hunting while in the company of an adult certified in hunter education. The program begins with this fall’s turkey season, which uses a lottery system to draw permits. Only the youth hunter need have a tag.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, proposed legislation to allow youths and adults to try hunting under tutelage of a licensed, veteran hunter has been introduced into the Ohio House of Representatives. The bill, HR 296, would create an apprentice hunting license allowing qualified, licensed adult hunters to introduce others to the sport prior to completion of a hunter education course.

The Ohio bill, part of a new “Families Afield” program, is aimed at enhancing the ability of youths and adults to discover hunting prior to large investments in time, equipment, and training. “Families Afield” is a cooperative project of the U.S. Sportsman’s Alliance, National Wild Turkey Federation, and National Shooting Sports Foundation.

In both cases, by providing a positive experience as the incentive to make the investment of time and money required to become hunter education certified and equipped for hunting, the number of licensed hunters is expected to increase.

Bill Lewis, Tackle Innovator Dies

Bill Lewis, an icon in the fishing tackle business and creator of the Rat-L-Trap line of lures, died last week at age 84

Lewis’ Rat-L-Trap and its unique “rattlin'” sound chamber design is considered by many in the industry as one of the most important innovations in the history of modern tackle, spawning the development of hundreds of other fishing lures and fishing products incorporating the concept. To date, the company has sold more than 150 million lures worldwide.

In addition to the enormous impact upon the evolution of fishing lures, Lewis’ inventions relating to sonic lure designs have led to further bioacoustics research and the development of advanced marine electronic products now becoming available to fishermen and researchers around the world.

Lewis began his fishing lure business in the 1950s, when he sold spinnerbaits and soft plastic lures to anglers at lakes and impoundments across the South from the back of his old Ford station wagon, which he affectionately referred to as (you guessed it) “The Old Rattletrap.”

Quote Of The Week

“And another thing that makes it easier to ice fish is that one need not worry about his backcasts.”

-Arthur R. MacDougall, Jr.

“The Trout Fisherman’s Bedside Book,” 1963

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. Visit his Web sites, The Outdoor Pressroom (www.outdoorpressroom.com and The Outdoor Weblog www.outdoorweblog.com ) to find the latest outdoor news of interest. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You may contact him at jrabsher@outdoorpressroom.com.

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