Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Writer, The Internet, the Bear and Salt

Alleged Grizzly Bear from Canada is really a Kodiak Brown Bear from Alaska
 Writers are voracious readers. We are notorious fact checkers.  We also have this misunderstanding with the world in general that if someone sends us something via e-mail that they want us to read it and report back any discrepancies.

Friends of writers sometimes worry that we are about to go over- the- edge OCD ):-  

A friend passed on a many forwarded email about a monstrous Grizzly Bear allegedly shot in Saddle Hills, Alberta, Canada. Great story, but something about it didnt' smell right. When something doesn't smell right, writers go on the hunt for the truth like a drug-sniffing dog at LAX. It started with my noticing there were no names on this trophy size animal. No fully attributed original source.

What can be put on the Internet can also be checked on the Internet. Online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia are great sources of likely statistical data. The grizzly was not likely to be the size bragged about.  More likely. a Kodiak  Brown Bear. Now bears don't read, so they can't be expected to know what they are supposed to weigh or where they live, so that is not enough to debunk the story.

Next came visits to some well known hunting sites. Just drop in the alleged bear breed and location and up popped some retail and publisher web sites where a "whopper" could get dropped in- and other hunters can comment on the voracity. 

Some believed the story.

Others questioned the flora (more likely Alaska) 

The size of the bear living in an interior location. Weight more likely a salmon-fed Kodiak brown bear (more likely Alaska)

A person wrote in he knew who shot the bear(in Alaska) 

Another site mentioned when it was shot (which didn't match the photo "properties" but was embedded underneath. In guess where-a lodge in Alaska.

Notice the pattern?

Then I showed the text and photo to the household Great White Hunter - and the guns did not match the action of the story.

Still, cross reference was needed for verification. Put the info suggesting the original material was a fake- which took me straight to the Afognak Wilderness Lodge.

Guess what I found. An exact match photograph. So I wrote the lodge to request their version of the bear story.

Kodiak Island Retreat

The lodge owner kindly wrote back, giving permission to post the images with the true story that was adulterated for the purposes of someone wanting trophy hunters to go looking for guides or such in Saddle Hills, Alberta.  

Here's the TRUE story that goes with the bear photos (formerly a fraudulent e-mail Alberta, Canada story)

A lot of people have seen pictures and read a few different stories about my bear. I am writing this to set the record straight, out of respect for the animal and the people involved. This whole story started with myself and a very good friend and hunting partner who so graciously made this whole experience happen during May, 2007.

I had never been to Alaska but dreamed about it many times, and the next thing I knew I was flying into Kodiak with a brown bear tag in my hand. Out of all the hunts I had done before I don't think I had ever been more excited. We would have one more short flight to get to our final destination, Afognak Island. From the time we got off the plane to the time we got on, everybody at Afognak Wilderness lodge ( made you feel like life long friends and family. Before I knew it, I was barely unpacked and we were on a boat, glassing for bears. The next morning we would be on the water again cruising the shores, telling stories and of course looking for bears. With a few smaller bears spotted, we headed back to the lodge to let the high tide come down a little and grab some lunch.

As a lot of people know, hunting sometimes requires being in the right place at the right time. As we came through a small channel into a big cove, this bear was spotted almost immediately along with two others close by. We had about a mile in between us. We took every precaution in our approach by covering the windows of the boat with our jackets to hide any reflection from the sun. We knew this bear was big, but didn't really know just how big he really was. All I know is that, at a mile away, you didn't need binos to see him.

Knowing we had to get around two other bears to get to where he was, we were just hoping he was still there. As we came off the hill to the beach where he was, he was gone but had left some pretty impressive tracks going right up into some of the thickest forest I had ever seen. We decided to go up a ridge to see if there was a chance we could spot him down below us. I will be honest, crawling through trees and brush so thick you can't see 30 feet is a little nerve-racking, knowing there is a giant bear very close by.

Of the events that unfolded next are still a little blurry because it happened so fast, but I'll do my best. The next thing I know the bear was 20 yards to our left in a small opening. I do know this, he stood up on his hind feet behind a tree that was a little taller than me, (I'm 6'4) and I could see his whole chest above the top of the tree. He popped his jaw a couple of times, and with a big woof he was on the run. As I said before, the trees were so think we could only get glimpses of him as we were trying to run after him. Anybody who has been to Alaska knows that trying to run through the forest is like trying to run on a sponge . . . to say the least, it feels like a bad dream where your running in slow motion.

Thinking we had lost him, Luke and I both dropped to our knees, and with a split-second clear line of sight below the tree branches I had a clear quartered-away shot as he made his way up a gully. I don't even remember the sound or recoil of that .330 Dakota; all I know is it stopped him in his tracks. The next shot was from Luke's .375 Ackley, If it wasn't for the concussion of his rifle right next to my head, I would have never known he pulled the trigger. One more shot from both of us would put this spectacular animal down for good. Like so many other hunts before, the emotions are so overwhelming to walk up on such a magnificent animal, but at the same time be sad that its all over, just wishing you could keep the hunt going on and on.

This bear was a true warrior. It's hard to imagine what this animal has seen or done in his lifetime. He had a broken jaw from a scrap with another bear and was badly arthritic in his knees. By pulling a tooth from the bear, the Alaska Fish & Game determined he was 18 years old. He squared out at 9' 11", but in his prime was probably much bigger. The official SCI score was 29 5/16" which ties him for #20 in the book. One of the most impressive things about this bear was probably his claws. Anywhere from 5 to 7 inch's, and the longest claws anybody at the Fish & Game had ever seen.

Thanks to Paul, Luke, Josh and everyone at Afognak Wilderness lodge, this bear is truly a trophy of a lifetime for anybody. The bear was mounted by Animal Artistry in Reno Nevada and was on display at the SCI convention in Reno more than once. He now resides in my house, where I get to remember this special story every day.

Thanks again to everyone who got to experience this amazing hunt with me.

Jesse Wallace,

San Luis Obispo, California

The moral of the story is the Internet is not the Gospel. Much of what comes across it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Keep that shaker handy. 

And be kind to writer's. We're an excitable lot consumed with truth, justice and trying to figure out where they next paycheck is coming from):-


Anonymous said...

You are indeed a sleuth! Or should I say a detective.
I must say that I just glanced at the pics when J sent them to us as I had seen these before and was not about to look at them again. I just wasn't interested. I just deleted it. Bloody animals are just not something I wanted to see so the story didn't matter to me one way or the other.
So I guess as a writer you had to find the real story. Good for you.
All I can say is I am dang glad when we were in the wilderness of Alaska, that we didn't run into one of those guys. (Bears not the hunters:)

Hugs, Trisha

Lydia said...

Good morning Trisha.

'morning early bird Trisha and Facebook posters. Thank you for your kind words.

The bear deserved the respect of having his story properly remembered.

This mindset is what happens when suburban girl marries into a family totally immersed in the culture of outdoor adventure.

Oregon Sue said...

Glad you got to the bottom of the story. Most of the "stories" I receive are just prevarications. Normally I send them back with a note that the story is an untruth and can be checked at the website I list. Sometimes I just don't care.

As for his "trophy bear"... how sad this truly beautiful and majestic animal had to be put down for a "trophy"! Killing bears goes totally against my grain. There is no reason for it. Sad to me to see/hear this. A friend offered me some bear jerky a few years back from his kill ... I refused.

Lydia said...

Good morning, Sue.

I'm getting better about ignoring email blasts. Particularly those tht promise health, fortune or are of political in nature.

Some are simply ways to gather addresses without saying that is the purpose. The others-people believe what they want to believe and if they sent something - 99% of the time they don't want any skepticism. You stated your position well. Thank you.

I understand the controversy on hunting and trophies. The rule in this household has always been that if you take one of God's creatures for something other than a pet, you better plan on eating it or arranging for someone to eat it. Gerry isn't much on trophies or I would have liked a couple.

I don't know bear regs. But I know that in some species (say elephant) the taking of specimens is strictly regulated to the very oldest- the hunt is extremely expensive and pays for the conservation and health of the rest of the herd and required habitat. Which I view as very good.

Anonymous said...

Lydia, I realize I opened Pandora's Box when I sent the original email to the Daily Drivel gals.

I'm no expert on bears, their sizes or from where they eminate. I just thought, "ooh, that's big and it's in Saddle Hills, Alta." Didn't do any research for veracity.

Yes, I did say you're OCD and you know you are,(LOL)but you did your due diligence and came up with the real story. So thank you for your "truth, justice and the American way" that you always provide on your blog. ;-)

Seal Beach