By Jenny Neyman
Three weeks after seeing a brown bear shot by the side of the Sterling Highway near the Russian River Ferry, Jerry Holly said the incident is still eating at him, and he wants to know why the situation developed as it did.
“I’ve never seen such a fiasco in my life as this was. I don’t know what other words to use, other than just an absolute joke,” Holly said. “I have no trouble with hunting and I’m an avid hunter myself. But if that was hunting, I’m a jet pilot. That’s just absolutely ridiculous.”
Bruce Woods, a spokesman with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife in Anchorage, said the incident is still under investigation, and he can’t release information about it until the investigation is concluded.
Holly, a contractor in Soldotna, said he couldn’t imagine how the situation didn’t violate some sort of regulation or law, considering the multiple threats to public safety involved.
Holly and his wife were driving to Cooper Landing the afternoon of Oct. 3. As they passed a bend in the highway bordering a treeless slope down to the Kenai River, they saw the area mobbed with people — cars parked along the side of the road and in a pull-off area just before the slope, and people with cameras standing along the guardrail looking down at the river.
Must be a bear, Holly figured. Being a longtime central Kenai Peninsula resident, since 1958, and an avid hunter and fisherman, he’s seen enough bears that he wasn’t motivated to stop and join the crowd. An hour and a half later, after shooting scenic pictures for a photography class assignment and picking up a Kenworth dump truck from a job site his construction company was working at in Cooper Landing, Holly and his wife headed back to Soldotna.
As they neared the same highway bend, they saw it still choked with people. An Alaska State Troopers car with two troopers was on the scene this time, attempting to manage traffic. Troopers motioned for traffic to stop, with Holly in the dump truck at the head of the mounting column of traffic in the left-hand lane, and his wife in the car behind him.
About 100 feet in front of him, people started backing up from the guardrail and heading for their cars.
“So I go, ‘Aha, here comes Mr. Bear,’” Holly said.
It was a good-sized, male brown bear, Holly said. Fish and Game has described it as a subadult male.
“He steps up on the road, looks over my direction and troopers’, looks at the people backing up. They decide to run. That triggered Mr. Bear and he goes about maybe 10 or 15 feet toward them, and I mean a bear can move. He was not going on no mission here, he just took off on a little bit of a gait,” Holly said.
The bear stopped, turned and walked back along the guardrail toward where Holly was parked, then turned and looked across the road at the 75- to 100-foot rocky slope leading up to tree line, Holly said. He started heading up the slope, and troopers turned on their siren, probably to encourage the bear to leave the area, Holly figured.
About that time, two hunters in camouflage carrying rifles came running along the guardrail from the pullout where traffic was parked.
Holly is a longtime rifle and bowhunter, a member of the National Rife Association and taught a youth competitive rifle club for nine years. He’s supportive of hunting, but was incredulous that these men were going to shoot under these conditions, he said.
“It was embarrassing to watch that, totally embarrassing. The ethics of a bowhunter are so much different than this. I mean, you don’t even take a shot unless you’re totally confident and sure that you’re going to place that arrow. And these guys are running and dropping a knee, and all these people, all these tourists and all these cameras around,” Holly said. “Anybody trying to get a shot off when you’re running and your heart’s pumping, it’s not only dangerous, it’s poor sportsmanship. I can’t think of enough adjectives to tell you what that does to your aim. You don’t want to be placing bad shots.”
Troopers were standing next to the hunters as they took aim at the bear, which had paused on the edge of tree line, Holly said.
“I thought maybe at this point that they had actually given them permission, or maybe they called for these guys. I was really amiss as to where these guys even came from,” Holly said. “They (troopers) certainly didn’t prevent these guys from dropping to a knee.” Continue reading