Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: Photographs show an enormous bear killed by an Alaskan hunter.
Examples: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
Origins: The photographs displayed above are authentic, and the basic story of their origins are correct, but, predictably, some of the details have been altered or exaggerated as the pictures have traveled around the Internet.
The slain bear shown in these images was shot to death in
Winnen and three hunting buddies were dropped off on Hinchinbrook Island in the heart of Prince William Sound by an air taxi on a cool, rainy Oct. 14 morning.As this account demonstrates, some of the details in the text that now accompanies these photographs is incorrect:
Hinchinbrook is a 165-square-mile island near Cordova with an estimated population of about 100 brown bears, giving it the distinction of harboring the highest density of bears of any island in the Sound, according to Dave Crowley, Cordova area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Four to six bears are killed by hunters on the island every year, though rarely one of more than 400 pounds.
On day two of the group's hunt, the skies cleared at 8:30 a.m. Winnen and Eielson Staff Sgt. Jim Urban set out to follow a creek bed upstream looking for deer. Urban was carrying a .300-caliber Winchester Magnum. Winnen was carrying his significantly more powerful .338-caliber Winchester Magnum in case a bear crossed their path.
In the creek, they spotted a deep pool with 20 salmon circling.
''By this time, the ... run was over and the salmon were looking pretty nasty,'' Winnen said. ''We started thinking that we were looking at a bear's dinner plate.''
That got Winnen in what he calls ''bear mode.''
The two men continued following the creek upstream until they came to a small island ringed with thick brush. Some end-of-season blueberries clung to the surrounding brush. In the middle of the island was a spruce tree larger than what Winnen could fit his arms around. At the base of the tree were signs that an animal had tried to dig a hole.
About 9:30 a.m., Winnen glanced upstream.
Forty yards away was a big brown bear with all four paws in the creek, flipping over logs looking for salmon.
"He's a shooter," Urban said under his breath.
"So I started getting in the zone," Winnen said. "When I am going to take an animal, I am really concentrating. We racked shells into our guns and took off our packs and left them by the tree."
The hunters moved a few feet upstream. About halfway between them and the bear was a large fallen tree.
"I said, 'When the bear crawls over that log, he will present his vital areas and we'll take him,'" Winnen recalled. "I brought the rifle up to take a shot, but the bear moved over the log like it wasn't there.
"I thought, 'Oh crap.' I didn't have a chance to get a shot off."
As the bear kept coming along the creek, the two hunters momentarily lost sight of him in a thicket, so they retreated back to the big spruce.
"We were sitting there concentrating when, a few seconds later, he pops up right in front of us, about 10 yards away and he was coming toward us," Winnen said. "I don't know if the wind was in our favor or what. We were dressed in camouflage. He might not have seen us."
"I put the scope on him. I wanted to hit him in the chest, but all I seen was nothing but head.
"My partner said, 'Shoot! Shoot!'" Winnen said. "I aimed for his left eye, but the bullet takes an arc and I hit about two inches low in the side of his muzzle and into his brain.
"He buckled backwards and raised his head like he was going to howl at the moon, but nothing came out,'' Winnen said. ''I put two more rounds in the vital area, then three more after that. Six total."
"It was amazing"
"We watched for a few minutes, I reloaded and Jim brought his gun up on him," Winnen said. "I approached from the rear and poked him in the butt to see if he was going to jump, but he didn't move. He was dead."
"It was amazing when I got close to him," Winnen said.
"I picked up the paw and it was like, 'good God.' The thing was as wide as my chest."
After the kill, Winnen and Urban spent six hours skinning the bear — and trying to drag its hide and skull back to the Forest Service cabin they had rented.
In 2003 another photograph began to be circulated in conjunction with the pictures shown above, purportedly showing a human victim who was the bear's "last meal":
Although this is presumably a genuine photograph of human remains gnawed by one or more animals, it has nothing to do with the bear pictured above. This photograph comes from a completely different source and was only tacked on as an addendum to the bear story after both had been circulating independently for over a year. The bear shot by Ted Winnen was not known to have killed any humans.
Last updated: 27 May 2005
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