Thanks to a now-dead black bear, Kyle Jack is subsisting on his canned peaches, pickles, a few decaying strawberries, a Yoo-Hoo and an orange-carrot beverage.
"I had a packet of meat this big," Jack said Wednesday, separating his bony hands to about the size of a breadbox.
Jack's panhandling had paid for Spam and a few other meat products, but all that disappeared in one unfriendly visit last week, he said.
Jack said he was lying on his sleeping pad reading "Corridor of Storms," a book about First Americans, when he glanced over his shoulder.
"I looked back and there were two black bears. I said to hell with this, and I cruised that way and hauled (butt)," Jack said, pointing out of the Soldotna woods, where his camp is, toward the Sterling Highway.
That's when Jack flagged down Soldotna Police Sgt. Duane Kant, who was on night patrol at about 4:30 a.m. on May 19.
"Kant went in there to verify. He saw the bear (police never found a second bear), a 2- or 3-year-old male," Soldotna Police Sgt. Robb Quelland said. "He tried to shoo it away and nothing really happened. Then he fired a few rubber bullets to get the bear out of the camp."
But it didn't work.
"The (bear) wouldn't move so they called another unit and blasted him with a 12-guage," Jack said.
Or, less bluntly, Kant called Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which gave the go-ahead to kill the bear, according to Quelland. The bear was donated to a local charity.
Jeff Selinger, an area biologist with Fish and Game, said decisions to put an animal down are made on a case-by-case basis. He said police acted accordingly in this instance.
"It depends on what actions had been taken to deter the bear. We give them a chance to move out of there," Selinger said. "If they don't take their chance to get up and get out, we tend to put black bears down and brown bears, too, for that matter. The number one priority is public safety."
Quelland said Soldotna Police typically put down one bear per year. Jack's bear was the first casualty of the summer.
Though the immediate threat of the bear was taken care of relatively quickly, it could leave a lasting impact on Jack.
"(Police) said throw away your meat, so I brought this bag of garbage out and threw away all my meats," Jack said, picking up a stuffed garbage bag that sat beside a tan blanket resting atop leaves. "I said, 'To hell with this.'"
Jack says he can't leave the area because he is waiting for his wife to get out of jail. She was recently picked up for shoplifting at Fred Meyer, he said. The couple moved here from Anchorage in an attempt to find work.
The day after the black bear visit, Jack said two moose came by his camp.
"Two big moose came cruising by, so I got up and hauled my (butt) off in that direction," he said, gesturing like he did when he described the black bear visit.
Though Jack says, "I ain't scared of no bears and moose," he is scared about not seeing his wife.
"I really, really miss her every day. I'm just going to sit here and wait, wait for my wife," Jack said. "I'm a hurting unit, man."
Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite @peninsulaclarion.com.
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