Jeff Selinger, with Fish and Game, and Soldotna hunter Matt Zeek inspect a large brown bear that Zeek and a hunting partner killed in defense of life and property June 3 north of Mackey Lake Road.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
The behemoth of a brown bear killed in defense of life and property (DLP) by two Soldotna hunters last weekend has turned out to be even bigger than first speculated.
Jeff Selinger, Soldotna area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, received the carcass and its removed hide from the two hunters that shot it as per state regulations for salvaging a bear killed in a DLP situation.
Selinger said that after his initial inspection of the kill site, he spent the rest of his weekend removing the meat from the bones of the dead bruin and then tallied the weight of the remains.
“The meat, heart and lungs weighed in at 465 pounds,” he said.
Selinger combined this figure with that of the hide, which weighed 200 pounds, bones, which weighed 85 pounds, and the gut pile ,which he estimated at 100 pounds. He came up with a combined weight of roughly 850 pounds.
“That’s big, especially for a spring bear,” he said.
In addition to the bruin’s impressive weight, Selinger said measurements taken also confirmed this bear was bigger than many he has seen.
“Its skull measurements (initially) tapped out at 29 and 4/16 inches,” he said, after combining the greatest length and width measurements of the skull without the lower jaw.
For reference, the Boone and Crockett Club, which maintains an official measurement and scoring system for outstanding-sized or “trophy” big game animals, lists a score of 30 12/16 inches for the world record Alaska brown bear a bruin killed in Kodiak in 1952.
The Boone and Crockett Club does not consider bears shot in DLP situations for their records, though. Selinger also pointed out that even if the bear’s measurements could be submitted by the hunters for consideration, the club requires skulls to dry for 60 days before final measurements are submitted and some shrinking occurs during this period.
He said that just a few days after the bear was killed, the taxidermist used by Fish and Game to preserve the hide and skull measured the skull at 28 5/15 inches.
While initial estimates of the bear’s weight and size might have been on the low side by 100 pounds or so, Selinger was closer to accurate with his estimate of the bear’s age at 20 years.
Thomas McDonough, an assistant area biologist at Fish and Game in Homer, used the numbers tattooed on the inside of the bear’s lips to learn what he could from a Fish and Game database.
“I was able to determine it had been captured back in July of 2000,” he said.
McDonough said the bear was captured about five miles south of Funny River Road, between Funny River and the Funny River Horse Trail miles from where the bear was killed, north of Mackey Lake Road.
During this capture the bear had a premolar tooth removed for age determination, which Selinger explained “is just like counting the rings of a tree,” since they take a thin cross section of the tooth, put dye on it and then count the rings.
Fish and Game’s record from this tooth examination process indicated the bear was born in 1987.
“So, he was 19. Our estimate was close,” Selinger said.
Records indicated that 2000 was the only year this bear was captured by Fish and Game, and it was likely done as part of a research project, as opposed being sedated and relocated as a nuisance bear, McDonough said.
Selinger said he is still hopeful the bear’s skeleton and hide can be used for educational purposes. Past skeleton articulation projects have provided a basis for teaching school children about bear biology and Alaska ecology, as well as ways to decrease human-bear interactions, which often lead to DLP situations, he said.
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