Brown bear visits Soldotna high football team

Posted: Thursday, August 02, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- Football players had just finished practicing the ''bear crawl'' at Skyview High School in Soldotna when they got a glimpse of the real thing.

The day before Monday's incident, the brown bear had killed a moose near the gate to the high school driveway.

''It didn't stand up until it got to the top of the hill, but it stopped and looked at us through the fence. I kind of wondered, what if the fence was not there?'' said Greg Zorbas, assistant Skyview football coach. ''She loped up to the top of the hill close to the birch trees, stood up, tore down a stump, and then she was gone.''

But not far. Since its moose kill the bear -- actually a sow with two cubs -- has been seen several times in the area south of the driveway from the Sterling Highway to the woods behind the football and soccer fields. So have her cubs.

Mike Crawford, a visitor from Kent, Wash., said he was talking to an Alaska State Trooper when a report of the bear came over the trooper's radio Sunday. He followed the trooper to the school, then watched one of the bears.

''I stayed until it got dark and watched the bear eating (the moose),'' Crawford told the Peninsula Clarion.

Crawford said that bear looked like a 2-year-old cub. Shortly after it disappeared into the trees, he saw a sow and a cub in a meadow just west of the moose.

Coach Wade Marcuson said the bear showed up for football practice about 9:30 a.m. on Monday.

''The bear was milling around, tearing down stumps. It looked like she was having a good time,'' he said. The players had just finished the bear crawl drill, and Zorbas noted the bear's presence.

''He said, 'We're going to stop for a moment. We've got a demonstration going on over here. That's what I want you to be -- low to the ground,''' Marcuson said.

Athletic director Dan Creel said school officials met with Fish and Game biologists, who advised that trapping and relocating the bears would do little good, since relocated bears generally return quickly to their original stomping grounds.

Marcuson said he told the football players, about 70 students, that they have a special opportunity.

''We told the kids, 'you don't have too many football camps where you see a brown bear,''' he said. ''We told the kids not to be over there, not to go looking for the kill, to stay together and to stay close to the building. I think as long as we're together and by the building, we're OK.''

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