A Rogue Grizzly, What It Cost Us!


March 4, 2011

(Editor’s note – This is the second post in a series that deals with some of the impact of the state’s game ‘management’ practices. The first post “Buckled Ice…..” spoke of some of the obstacles in attempting to be involved in the discussion)


First – let’s correct the misuse of the word Grizzly.

Alaska calls the same bear a “Brown Bear”, not a Grizzly.

We are dealing with the issue of predators, how they impact those of us who LIVE in the areas affected by some of the state’s  management practices and what it costs, at least for some of us!!!

The Alaska Peninsula is that skinny part of Alaska that leads down to the Aleutian Islands and has Bristol Bay on the west side of it. The State Board of Game rotates on a 3 year schedule through the various areas of the state. Our area runs the 4th through the 10 this month. This is also the area where the young teacher was attacked and killed by the wolf pack last year despite years of us being told wolves do not attack people. (Unfortunately these meeting are  not held in the areas affected so residents can speak to the issues, but  in Anchorage or, like this year, a suburb of Anchorage! This effectively greatly limits our rural voices being heard in person.)

We, a group of villages, in this ‘game area’ will be trying to get the attention of the Game Board these few days to present our side of the past years’ ‘management’ of predators and how we have paid for that ‘management’.

That isn't blood from the bear!

All of this came right to our yard in a different, but just as brutal and upsetting way on Christmas Eve, just a few months ago.

My family and our two dogs returned on Christmas Eve from our local airport and collecting our mail. It was a cold day, in the negatives, and with a good snow cover. There was a gentle wind from the north. The weather had been this way for a good month or so and we were in winter mode of watching for wolves in the wee hours. We were not worried about Brown bear as they had been denned up for probably close to two months.

We got out of the car in our driveway and one of us started packing mail and packages into the house while the other walked the opposite direction to check our generator, about 150 yards away. The dogs were in the yard between us just generally sniffing around. The yard is cleared and no brush is around for some distance. Generally this is an area that wild animals avoid as they are totally exposed and near humans. The village we live in, as a whole, is pretty active year around.

On my second trip into the entry to drop mail our one dog that is the ‘warning or alarm’  animal started barking loudly with her ‘serious danger’ bark. I raced out near her and called for our second dog, who had been there just minutes ago. I heard a kind of weird/odd snarl sound but nothing else. No second dog and the other one racing to the side of the yard near a gentle slope.

I yelled and my spouse ran toward the area I thought I heard the sound come from. Then came the scream to get back, a bear had just killed our dog!! My heart took a twist and my stomach dropped. This doesn’t happen in a village and definitely not this time of year!!

The one that shed all the blood in the above picture!

I can’t tell you the shock in his voice or his frantic run to the house for a gun. Our other dog was now trying to charge that area and yet keep me safe, just yards away.

Upon getting the gun we ran toward where the bear and dog were. From just  a few feet away he   dispatched  the bear immediately.

This bear  showed NO FEAR. I can’t stress this enough…bears do not like humans and REALLY do not like guns. They always turn and run when they hear the click of a gun. We have heard of hunters who stumbled upon a bear in the middle of feeding and been ‘barked’ at but they usually will show sign of wanting to get away when they hear a gun ‘click’.

The dog was dead except for the last futile convulsion her body was going through. She had died in seconds as he jumped her from behind, broke her back and then crushed her skull. She did not have time to yip or even whine.

The dog that HATES bears never got a chance to bark a warning. She most likely saw him or smelled him once he got close to her, as the wind was blowing towards him and away from our dogs.

This bear not only killed our dog but stalked and raced to kill her. We were able to trace his prints back in the fresh snow and see where he planted his paws and started the race to kill her.

Our surprise, as well as all others who have lived here all their lives, came on two fronts. First that we had a Brown bear , called a Grizzly in the lower 48, out this time of year when the weather had been so cold and we had so much snow cover. No one we have talked to since this happened can recall this happening during their life time.

The second surprise was that he stalked her and came into a definitely human area to kill. He was not surprised, there was no food to protect, there were no cubs to protect, we did not have food to entice him in, it was just plain bizarre on many fronts.

After the first round of shock we realized we were equally as close to the original spot the bear started from and within obvious sight of him, or at least smell, as the dog he killed. Had he chosen to go straight instead of veering to the left it would have been me; going to the right, he would have had gotten my spouse.

We KNOW that this bear would not have mauled us but killed us just like the dog, and the ability for one of us to help the other would have been futile …

When that realization sets in  you change how you walk out your front door in this part of the country, even in the relatively ‘safe’ winter.

(The next post will look into why things might have gotten to this point)


19 Responses to “A Rogue Grizzly, What It Cost Us!”

  1. elsie09 Says:

    ugavic, your words just make my blood run cold. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your beautiful dog and the horror that this bear put you and your spouse through. The bear attacked, with no provocation from any of you, in your own yard, when it should have been hibernating in its winter den.


  2. marthauys Says:

    Vic, I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear blonde lab. As owners of a fish processing plant and with many years living next door to salmon, I know that you are very familiar with brown bears’ normal habits, as were the dogs. What bothered me so much when I heard about this is that the ADF&G and State Troopers were so unhelpful, uninterested in the oddity, and close to heartless about the outcome during multiple contacts.

    I look forward to your next post about game management and I will comment more on this subject then. I’m still mulling over how tainted our state resource management & protection agencies have become with partisan politics running their policy, instead of managing our resources in the balanced way they were established to do. In my experience, residents be damned.

    I will miss Missy Lab, too. I especially loved the way she rode in the bow of the skiff as an ocean ranger.


    (edited by the author to post correct link)

  3. jim Says:

    I’m awaiting the end of the story too. Do you know how old the bear was? I have been around grizzlies in the Brooks Range and the most unpredictable ones were the young ones that were a year or two old. Did your spouse get a side shot? There is practically no kill zone if it is facing you, but on the side you can get it. I hope I’ll never be in that situation. What kind of a gun did he use?

    The Earth is changing. Polar bears (I’m even more worried about polar bears) are starting to breed with grizzlies; grizzlies are doing more weird things, summer salmon food sources are becoming less reliable, and perhaps changing environmental factors are starting to affect hibernation in your area. I hope this will not be the first of more problems. Of course you don’t have any polar bears around there so you won’t have to worry about them.

    I’m very sorry for the loss of your Lab. I love Labs. I just finished petting a couple Labs 20 minutes ago.

  4. Bob Ewing Says:

    Sorry, find this a little hard to believe. Photos can be faked and bears don’t walk around this time of year.

  5. ugavic Says:

    This guy was figured to be in the 4 year old range. He had a good coat and fat layer on him, so it was not a case of starving. He did seem small to us, given his age, which seems to support the observations by many that there is a lack of food for predators somewhere early in his life. Our caribou herd is at the stage there is no hunting allowed. Moose have a very low calf survival rate due to predators.

    A rifle, 30-06, was used to bring him down with a shot directly between the eyes. He hit the ground immediately, thank heavens as we were VERY near him at the time. He showed no efforts to leave even when he heard/saw the gun.

    There is some evidence that he might have been interrupted from his den by wolves. IF this is what happened it might well become a learned hunting tactic and we could have more issues in the future. Without being a henny penny, IF this is caused by weather, not enough food to support complete hibernation or wolves learning a new food source this would put a whole new twist to living in rural Alaska.

    We made sure we called it in immediately to the troopers, who did a personal visit out in the week and gave us the estimate for the age. His head was taken and shipped into Fish and Game, but I have heard nothing further.

    For us the loss of the dog was nothing less than heart wrenching but I am ever so grateful it was not a person, although it still feels like we lost a very loved family member.

  6. alaskapi Says:

    Mmm hmm, Mr Ewing…
    We ALL find it hard to believe bears are walking around this time of year.
    It’s not the norm but neither is it unheard of.
    In my part of Alaska, we do see young bears out of their den in about February every few years… one or two at most.
    Quite a bit younger than this one was…

    Are you calling ugavic a fake/liar/phony?
    If so, what do you think would be the purpose of making up such a god awful , heart wrenching story…?
    And following up with a ( legally required ) notification to State Wildlife Troopers of a bear taken in defense of life and/or property? ( You do know Alaskans are required to report, don’t you? )
    Why would someone add false-report-to-police to a lie?


  7. elsie09 Says:

    Nothing was faked about that attack or those photos. Obviously, the bear SHOULD have been hibernating. Instead, it came up near the house, killed the family’s beautiful pet, and could just have easily have turned on the people instead.

    “Bob Ewing”, sorry, I find it “a little hard to believe” that you are so crass. Yeah, let’s go with “crass” for the moment, since other words that come to my mind right now are not appropriate for this blog.

    “Bob”, it seems to me that you need to brush up the reality that this particular bear apparently failed to get YOUR MEMO that bears never walk around this time of year. THIS bear was NOT hibernating; it attacked without provocation; it aggressively killed a beloved pet…on December 25, 2010.

    And while you’re at it, try to learn some manners, Dude.

  8. elsie09 Says:

    Sorry, Bob, I was so pissed (oops, another word I don’t normally use…sorry…) that I wrote the 25th. I meant to say the attack on this family occurred on Christmas Eve day, just like Ugavic reported it. There’s an official report on it, too. Looks like somebody got the memo on filing the report, I guess…

  9. jim Says:

    Good job to your hub on one shot. You married the right guy. Ursus Arctos Horribilis can take many shots in non-kill places.

    At the Interior homestead that later became my parents’ land, the original homesteader got killed in 1948 after putting eleven 30-30 shots into one of these guys as it ran down a long field. After being shot 11 times, the bear killed and the homesteader and then later died.

    Message to Bob: I could take one of my daughter’s stuffed bears and stick ketchup near it in the snow, and I doubt you’d manage to tell the difference between that and reality– perhaps you’re just too dumb.

  10. AKMuckraker Says:

    Bob – Yes, that’s what people do for fun. Just make up random stories and spend dozens of hours in Photoshop to create a fake entry for a blog about life in rural Alaska. This actually seems more reasonable to you than the fact that the bear was awake?


  11. marthauys Says:

    Bob Ewing missed the point of this post by a mile, maybe two. Sure, it’s just another one of those tall Alaskan tales, Bob. This is how we keep busy in the winter you know, making stuff up.

    I spoke to a long time ADF&G bear researcher when this incident happened and he said that he has seen enough bears out of den in the winter in Southeast Alaska that he wasn’t all that surprised to hear this. So much for the statement that bears aren’t ever out of den.

    What happened is unusual – not just a bear out of den, but one that does not appear to be starving who attacked within a definitive human habitat without fear. Residents who have inhabited that area for many long years know the norm and note the unusual regarding wildlife behaviour. Often their lives depend on this local knowledge, as did their ancestors’.

  12. alaskapi Says:

    A quick search of bear habits in winter and in Alaska puts a lie to the idea that bears are simply never out in the winter.
    Some polar bears never den, some Kodiaks never do…
    Reading about zoo bears one finds that responsible zoos in non-cold climates have learned to remove food sources to allow their animals to go into hibernation to maintain healthier bears.
    Once again, what IS unusual here is a relatively healthy appearing bear being out and about at the end of a cold December hunting in a human occupied area.
    Unusual is the operative word. Not impossible…

  13. Diane Says:

    What a horrible story and my heart goes out to to you and your wife.
    We just had to put our 12 year old cat to sleep and it was horrible. I can’t image my cats killed like that.

  14. Fawnskin mudpuppy Says:

    Thank you,Ugavic, for writing this heart wrenching story. I know that it must have been so very difficult for you to share your family’s pain after suffering this ordeal. But you have given us all thoughts to ponder. We definitely have misconceptions about the behavior of bears and you have brought those to light.
    Thank you

  15. Boodog Says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Ugavic. I’m sure you must feel like you lost a family member. I feel bad for all concerned, even the bear. Something caused him to come out of hibernation. I know the weather has been weird this winter- could the temps have warmed up enough to have awakened him? I hope you can find a reasonable answer for this behavior, it might give you a little peace of mind.

  16. jimzmum Says:

    I am so very sorry.

  17. theperilsofpalins Says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  18. Quetzalcoatl Says:

    I’m really sorry for the loss of your animal companion.

    It really is chilling how quickly and oddly it happened, indeed. My knees would be shaking for quite some time.

    Grizzly bear are very unpredictable. Especially when hungry, I imagine.

    Looks like hard times for some animals, be vigilant and armed. Good to hear both of you weren’t in his path.


  19. resting blogger Says:

    R.I.P. BB

    We are happy to have your comment but a non proxy IP and a real addy would make us happier :-)
    AB admin

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