Katmai Bear Hunt: Outfitter Says It's No Walk in the Woods

Scott Dickerson photo.

Trophy hunters didn't have to range far to find a brown bear to kill in Katmai National Preserve. Scott Dickerson photo, used with permission.

An outfitter whose clients at close range gunned down brown bears in Katmai National Preserve contends the hunt is not akin to "shooting fish in a barrel." And Jim Hamilton, who owns True North Adventures, claims those who filmed portions of the hunt ruined the hunters' experience.

"There are no mechanized vehicles used to locate or stalk animals, they are not fenced or held captive by any unnatural means," Mr. Hamilton said in a written statement he sent to KTUU TV.

The outfitter went on to say Monday, the first day of the fall hunt in Katmai National Preserve, was a "very sad day ... (the) hunters were participating in a perfectly legal hunt (and) had their entire experience ruined by others who chose to use illegal methods to harass and interfere with their hunt."

But Sean Farley, the regional biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game who's responsible for the area where the hunt was conducted, agreed Friday that the hunt is "not fair chase."

"I feel personally remiss as the regional biologist that I haven't thought it out that this is what's going on out there," Farley told the Anchorage Daily News. "Not until I saw the video did I realize how bad it is. It's not appropriate."

Park Service officials, meanwhile, say the hunts are not threatening the Preserve's bear population.

"In recent surveys in August, we counted 330 bears in the preserve -- about a bear every square mile -- and that's a high density of bears," John Quinley, the agency's spokesman in Alaska, told KTUU. "That's what the law requires. Our management aims are for a high density of bears and we think we are achieving that."

But among the questions that need to be addressed is whether a healthy population justifies what has turned out to be a slaughter of arguably habituated animals taken only for their hides and skulls, not for subsistence.

You can find more coverage of this story here.

Comments

Explain your interpretation of "illegal methods", and how they apply in this specific instance. Admittedly, killing permits were indeed issued for use during a specified time frame. And your executioners were by some legal statute operating within the limits of those contracts. However, the photographing, filming, or other manner of documentation of ANY activities that take place on public landsis well within the scope of legality. If you don't want to be on camera, take your actions into the private sector. In the chance that camera crews placed themselves between preditor and prey, as extreme as those tactics might viewed, those recording the activities did indeed have just as much LEGAL right to be in the area as did those trophy-hunting low-lives lacking in skills and ethics to conduct a reasonably equtible pursuit of they intended quarry. Don't for a moment confuse these specimens with truly wild bears. If you ever had the opportunity to stare down a wild bear at a range of 20 yds., your first instincts would NOT be engaging in a moment of awe and appreciation, rather it would be quickly locating a place to discard of your soiled underwear. Sport hunting indeed.........who you crapping'?

"Our management aims are for a high density of bears and we think we are achieving that." This is the typical bureaucratic gobbledegook we have come to expect from the career minded robots who staff the elite ranks of the NPS.

I'm so glad you are meeting the goals of your management plan. You deserve a pat on your spineless back.

Mr. Hamilton, I carefully read your story on the Katmai bear slaughter, and that's exactly what it is...a slaughter...even in the confines of the Alaskan game laws. However, I don't buy your sugar coated scenario what happened during this easy kill. You mentioned, there was "no mechanized vehicles" used during the hunt. So, therefore you (the so called hunters) drop kick the kill with relatively little ease, and with no intentions of bringing back the bear for it's meat, but only just let it rot in the open stream. Wonderful game tactics! Yes, my emotions run high on this tragic episode of ruse games laws that allows this kind of pathethic killing to continue. Not just in Katmai but else where in Alaska. I can remember stories about so called game hunters shooting bears from private planes...etc.. Alaska, in my estimation, only surrenders to the powerful fish & game lobby that allows and wants weak game management laws to be implemented...or not to be heavily enforced. From my close allies in the field of conservation have told me, it's not about game management in Alaska...it's about MONEY!

I've been selected to hunt one of Georgia's state parks to reduce the deer herd population. Hope I have such good luck!

Those bears fear nothing as they know they are on top of the food chain! Thats not a good thing and with that many bears there it wont be long till you start seeing Campers and Hikers start missing!

Lone Hike, these are the same bears that ate Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Treadwell Sounds like they are pretty wild to me.

How do you know that these were the same bears? Were they officially tagged as such?

And what does Timothy Treadwell have to do with this anyway? He got what was coming to him. His demise was a Darwinian masterpiece.

As a ranger I had to constantly remind park visitors that all animals in national parks are wild and untamed, even the cute little chipmunks & squirrels begging for handouts on the overlook railing. Should they also qualify as legitimate targets of oblivion through a rifle sight? After all they bite far more people than bears do and can carry fatal diseases like rabies and the plague. Come on dude, be for real! Talk about your lazy logic!

Your point is meaningless and without connection to this incident.

The link he provided says the bears munching on Treadwell were killed right away. Didn't read his own link.

Same species doesn't qualify as same bears. Rogues exist across all flora and fauna. Indeed, even particular plant species qualify, though I hardly desire to present a 300-level biology lecture in this short space. Suffice to say in layman's terms they're generally referred to as mutants, at least in the microbial and plant taxa. Rogues are something science typically connotes with avain, reptilian and mammalian groups. Catch me another time, eariler in the day, for the same lecture I'd present to science majors in a formal setting.

Speaking of Mr. Treadwell and guest, not that I had anything directly to do with it, but I believe you'll discover them to be among the annual recipients of a Darwin Award, an honor (such as it were) bestowed upon certain lower forms of life on the evolutionary scale who have exhibited the intellect and common sense of a used grapefruit, and by doing so directly impacted their own demise via an unusually bizarre manner, which was typically completely avoidable, and never without what would be considered even a close to average demonstration of IQ. Whether in a moment of poor judgement, substance induced or not, a momentary lack of reason or more commonly by just plain over-the-top stupidity, these models of humanity made a conscious choice to remove themselves from the gene pool. And the rest of us are grateful for the opportunity to have these specific examples to point out to our own children and say, "Don't let this happen to you".

My sincere and most heart-felt sympathy to their respective families for having to endure their loss through such a gruesome manner. I'm sure they were both fine people in their own right. But this was something that was completely avoidable by observing even minimal precautions, and as such they should never have placed themselves in the position whereby this incident was allowed to occur.

A large, male grizzly (tagged Bear 141) protecting the campsite was killed by park rangers while they attempted to retrieve the bodies. A second adolescent bear was killed a short time later after it charged the park rangers. A necropsy showed that the first animal had consumed parts of the couple's remains. It is unclear if this bear killed the couple or if he ate the remains after their deaths. In the 85-year history of Katmai National Park, this was the first incident of a person being killed by a bear.[1]

So much for the same bear theory, eh?

This citation was lifted directly from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Treadwell

Anon, I believe these data and others noted with the Wiki story suggest my synopsis be slightly more accurate than they support your hypothesis. But thanks for the added details..........

Some of you just amaze me. First off, If people don't manage their population then mother nature will. These bears are the top predator, so what is going to keep their numbers in check? The NPS has to do something to control the population and keep the numbers at a healthy level. Either tax dollars will be spent on it, or hunters will come in and pay to do it. You can't argue the fact that if the numbers get too high for the are to support then the animals suffer a much harder death.
The fact that they don't seem to fear people does not mean they are tame. It means they are potentially more dangerous. Ask the people whose towns are raided by polar bears every year.

About the Treadwell idiot, how are these camera people any different? talking about how it fed in front of their camp. Would they shoot the bear if it came after them or just keep saying "nice bear" while it opened them up?

While I don't like leaving any meat in the field, don't be fooled. It did not "rot in the open stream" as you say. Since Lone hiker wants to discuss biology, maybe he will be so kind as to honestly tell us how many animals/organisms are likely to recieve nourishment from that animal?

Sorry, the argument that the meat is left to waste doesn't work in nature, Nothing goes to waste

JUST LEAVE THE BEARS ALONE!!!!!!!!!!

Lone Hiker---the bears that chomped on Treadway were probably not rogues but simply some very curious Ursidae who saw an opportunity to try some fresh Homo sapiens sushi. When you hang out long enough in the living room of massive and wild omnivores, well, anything is bound to happen. Bon appetite!

Very true Beamis, rogues was a bit of an overstatement on my part. Technically speaking, we can't ascertain whether or not these opportunistic critters had "gone bad", which is more definitive of a true rogue, or were simply following the path of least resistance to satisfy a growling tummy. In either case, placing yourself knowingly in the path of hungry omnivores during times of scarce pickings still qualifies as textbook ignorance. So much so that they managed to qualify as the first human fatalities in park history. I rest my case.........

I hope Congress and the State of Alaska take quick steps to stop this terrible practice.

Any 3rd grader could tell you that he wasn't talking about the exact same bears. Goes to show how much good higher education does for you bunny huggin' posey sniffers who don't have a lick of common sense.

What fine point of logic are us over-educated bunny huggin' posey sniffers missing?

Are you trying to tell us that just because some bears happened to ingest a goofy guy and his girlfriend, who had deliberately camped way too close, for weeks on end, next to active wild bears in the outback, as being the sane and rational justification for close range slaughter of habituated bears in a national park?

If this is your thesis you are the one without a lick of sense. I doubt a first-grader would offer up this kind of nonsense with a straight face.

You are are wise to remain anonymous.

Alright boys, break it up. OF COURSE original writer wasn't talking about the IDENTICAL specimens that ate the fool and his guest. And as for the origin of my comments being somewhere between at less than the 3rd grade level, I guess that still qualifies as higher education by rifle-totin' redneck standards, so I'll bring it down a few notches so that all might understand.

The animals on the top of the food network judge how much food is around. In good years, momma bears make more baby bears. When the food is harder to find, momma bears don't make as many baby bears. All the little animals in the forest want to stay there, so they make enough babies to be sure that there will always be enough of them to survive when food is hard to find, and when to many are getting killed by other animals. But man is not recognized as a part of this system, so the animals don't know how to act. Sometimes, even when their numbers are low, man comes by and kills too many of them, and then they have a hard time making enough babies. This is because many kills every animal, the momma bears, the momma bears with child, the daddy bears and even the little baby bears, because somebody gave him a piece of paper that says he can do just that. But the man only takes the fur and the head, leaving the part of the animal that most others kill for laying in the dirt. This is good for other animals, because now there is "free food". So many creatures, like birds, small mammals and rodents come by and enjoy a free buffet. When they are done, special little bacteria from a family called decomposers will turn whatever the animals left into food for plants. This is good for the ground because now more plants can grow. It was also good for the birds and other animals who ate the bear, because now they can have more babies. And with all the extra bear meat laying around there will be LOTS of new babies next year for other animals. But the decomposers take years to make plant food. So that now many of next year's babies won't have the food the need, and they will starve. Let face it, how many years are there so many extra bears left to rot in the fields? This extra food is good now, but it will make for more problems in both the near and long-term. By the time the plant food is ready, there won't be enough extra plant-eating animals to eat the extra plants, so reforestation begins to happen. Oh GOD I hate writing to a 3rd grade audience! The system of checks and balances will have already over-corrected itself due to nature causes of too much glut in the system initially and returned the numbers of upper preditors to near normal levels. All of those, of course, EXCEPT the critters that function as the normal prey of the bears, whose numbers will swell such that their density per square mile will approach the maximum that the ecosystem can support, and then more hunting permits will be issued to "correct" the imbalance. So what the park service is doing is creating their own after-market sales. Along with proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is NO long-term plan in place to manage the complex issues pertaining to an ecosystem. The Alaskan Refuge was the last opportunity on this continent, and one of a precious few remaining on the planet, where you could observe the natural processes involved in a system sustained solely by complex interactions between animal and environment, without the "management" or interfering, meddling, underinformed methods of man. This was a learning tool to be taken advantage of, not a system in disarray that required correction, natural or otherwise. But in the real "world according to man", the context of the word environment is limited to only those items with monetary value, and the more they're worth, the more they're hunted and the faster they're eliminated from the environment. Buffalo, hunted solely for hide and tongue; rhinocerous, hunted solely for horns; elephant, hunted solely for tusks; various species of whales, hunted mostly for oil; various fish species which at one time were plentiful now cannot be found in numbers; various birds, hunter to near or total extinction for their feathers; there are too many others to list. To date, this is our legacy in environmental mismanagement. Please don't start writing back listing the few successes in respeciation. Yours will be a VERY short list, and the point is that they have all been returned to the bastardized environments of man, so that the very nature of the animal has been forever altered, as the eons of learned behaviors have been forced out of the nature of the beast.

Anybody for a more in-depth biology lesson? I think I'll starting to speak over the heads of the 3rd graders out there. Sorry. So as not to lose anyone, I was trying to focus on the Jethro Bodine level, 'cause even he gadiated fr'm 6th gray, according to story 'bout a man named Jed..........

And to set the record straight-

Casting dispersions on high education aside, the opening statement of my initial comment was, and I quote:
Same species doesn't qualify as same bears. I then went on to use evidence from the author's own notation to disprove his poor hypothesis. If one is to assume that a small sample size is indicative of a group as a whole, I can a strong case for our own species being worth less than a pile of bear dropping by sampling ANY daily periodical or video newscast. So branding all Brown's as killers is simply bad science. I personally don't follow the protocol required to produce bad science. It's not good for my industry. Practioners of such lame data analysis and experimental design are what made Timothy Leary appear as some sort of sage.

And for the record, I'll do the bio-speak with anyone, anytime. But beware, I prefer not to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed person. My cursory explantion on the effects directly resulting from mass death within a member of any food web is just that, cursory. But the insinuation that roting meat is beneficial to the system as a whole lends toward ignorance. Superficially the arguement appears to bear some merit. However, for the reasons I laid out above and enough more to make a 2 1/2 hour lecture, it's a really, really bad idea to provide an instantaneous glut of "nourishment", with nothing but negative impacts for the long-term health of any given system. And the notion that if we didn't kill the bears Mother Nature would is again, superficially intelligent at best. The mechanism by which natural special (that spe-cial, pertaining to a species, NOT special, like your mistress or favorite dog) corrections occur in the wild is completely dependent on the factors I outlined, and again by additional factors to encompass a good week's worth of lectures. Please tell me you're not serious in the old, "if not us, then somebody" theory of ecology. The history of resultant failures directly related to mankind's interventions with the environment is enough to fill multiple volumes of encyclopedia. For those of the younger set who don't know what that is, let's say it's worth 1-2 CD/DVD's worth of information. We still, after all these years as "stewards", don't really have much of a clue as to the overall complexity of the interactions between organisms in the world around us, yet we STILL insist on meddling about with things beyond our grasp. Somewhat of an arrogant, ignorant attitude, no?

I have been going to the Katmai for 8 years. I did not see ANY males over the age of 4 this year. IS THAT MANAGEMENT? I am not debating hunting, I am questioning the your insistance that there is number management in that location and a fair hunt. I have camped on the Katmai and these bears are basically tame. Why not shoot animals in a zoo? The odds of a kill are about the same.

Have you ever been to the Katmai for bear viewing? I have for the last 8 years. I have NEVER seen a roughe bear. What I do see is decreasing numbers year after year. I can't tell you the last time I saw a large male on the Katmai. These bears will allow you to come within 50 feet of them, I camped on the Katmai as do many fishermen and you know what? I have never heard of anyone coming up missing. Get Educated.

There is no need to have an unrestricted open hunt on the Katmai. I have been to the Katmai for the past 8 years. The number of bears decrease every year. I haven't seen a large male in several years. The polar bears attack because they have no food, this is not the case with the bears on the Katmai. They have plenty to eat, hence their size. I am going to assume you have never been out on the Katmai, because if you spent any time out there you would know how wrong you are regarding the bears' behavior. Fisherman camp in the streams among the bears every year with no fear. Where are all these animals who are going to eat the meat? I have camped out on the Katmai and I wonder what your comments are based on.

I have traveled to many places viewing and documenting our natural treasures. No place has touched me and my family as has Alaska and specifically the Katmai bears. The first and number one question asked is did you see a bear. I can not accept the brutal and unabated slaughter of Alskas brown bears on Katmai. This is not fair chase hunting and in fact it's not hunting at all. No more than wealthy people with unethical tendencies little hearts and huge egos. I have spent several years out on Katmai and have noticed a significant decrease in the number of bears especially the big males. These bears are exposed to large numbers of people throughout the fishing and viewing season and have become habituated to humans. It's extremely unethical and unfair to be able to step off a plane walk a few feet and blast away at these animals. I would like to thank my extended family Ken and Chris Day, Derek Stonorov and everyone else for their toerless efforts to bring this brutal bear killing to an immediate hault. It's quite ironic that Alaskans picked the bear to be on one of it's coins. I urge those in power to have compassion and stop this at once.

Just a few comments with a little different thought to process. It is unfortunate the park rangers felt they had to take the lives of two bears to protect the camera people that wanted to take pictures the following summer season--the bears may have found an alternative food source that should have been "fair game" for them. The bears could have enjoyed both the fish run and the people run. Also be sure and tell your bear adventure pilots, bringing you to the streams so you can take pictures, to leave their firearms at home, that if confronted by a bear, you can handle the controversy you are causing with your cameras. I would be willing to suggest 3 days after this unfortunate set of circumstances that occurred at Katmai, you would have had trouble finding a camera person looking for such a hearty adventure. The winds started blowing 35-50 mph, the temperatures dropped, the bears suddenly headed for the mountains toward their hiberation hideouts, and likely the only people left were a few hearty hunters and a few dedicated guides that are tough enough to weather the storm. Take a moment to discuss the difference between the summer bears, that camera people shoot, and their attitude toward people while lots of food source is traveling up the streams, and the fall/winter bears that are shot by people (the same Fall bears that were hungry enough to change their food diet to Timothy & Guest), as the fish diet dissapated late in the Fall. If the summer people are right about their appraisal of these bears' habits, they should feel free to go back to their camping spots, next to the streams, in the middle of bear country the entire month of October. and get up close and personal. Possibly these wonderful creatures of beauty have more than one side--I most certainly do.

WOW" BRIAN, WHAT BIG STRONG COURAGEOUS MEN TO BRAVE THESE HARSH AND DANGEROUS CONDITIONS!!

PLEASE EVERYONE WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN IN PROTEST OF THIS REDICULOUS HUNT ON KATMAI.

BE SURE TO MENTION GMU 9C 703 KATMAI NATIONAL PARK

Wow Anonymous---Do you realize Congresspeople do not listen to people named anonymous? Mr. & Mrs. Anonymous do not get to vote and for that reason they are not heard. For your information, I also did not appreciate the hunt that was portrayed in this particular video.

For anyone who would like a better visual of this year's bear hunt out on Katmai go to www.scottdickerson.com he's a photographer that took many still images of the bears milling around the hunters plane and camps. I think it further drives home just how simple it was for these guys to walk up to their animals and shoot!!