Stunned tourists watching a brown bear fishing and swimming in a river in Alaska were horrified when two hunters pulled up and shot the animal dead in front of them.
Stunned tourists watching a brown bear fishing and swimming in a river were horrified when two hunters pulled up and shot the animal dead right in front of them. Alaska. Photo: National Pictures
Pamela Locke, her husband and 13-year-old son were among the tourists - some just four years-old - left shocked by the hunters in Alaska.
The family set out from Sterling toward Cooper Landing and came across a group of cars and people along the side of the Sterling Highway.
They parked with the other vehicles and walked to the guardrail to see a young male brown bear in the river below the embankment. An Alaska State Trooper patrol car was also at the scene.
Mrs Locke said another vehicle parked in the lay-by and two men in camouflage armed with hunting rifles got out and started heading toward the bear.
She said she was walking back to her car next to another woman when the men passed them.
Mrs Locke said: "At first I thought, 'Well, they're being cautious. They just want to see the bear but are carrying rifles for protection in case something happens'.
"Then I realised they're wearing full camouflage. The lady walking with me stopped them and said, 'You're not going to shoot that bear, are you?' They were kind of smiling and laughing and said, 'Yeah we are, if it crosses the highway.' And she said, 'You've got to be kidding me.'
"They didn't question them. They didn't ask for a licence. They didn't say, 'Hey, it probably isn't the best situation to shoot this bear on a busy corner of the highway with all these people still there.' They just let them go."
She said the bear started running up the embankment on the other side of the highway, but the men ran after it.
Mrs Locke continued: "They got to the edge of the highway. The bear had run part-way up the hill and they opened fire on his backside.
"The shooter - I could see him clearly - he was on one knee and his foot from his bent leg was maybe an inch off the highway. I will concede that they were technically off the highway when they started firing."
She said the men shot the bear twice in the backside, and it rolled down the hill and up by the side of the highway.
She added: "He wasn't dead at that point, with all of us standing there with a wounded brown bear on the highway.
"My husband said they were clearly standing on the highway when they fired those last two shots. They had to be, since it rolled up toward them and they had to step back."
Mrs Locke said the troopers got into their patrol car to leave after the bear was dead, but she flagged them down.
She added: "I said, 'You're just going to let them shoot from the highway?' They said, 'Ma'am, they're not on the highway,' and he took off. He didn't want to discuss it any further."
Trooper Garrett Willis, stationed in Cooper Landing, said the hunters claimed they had a permit.
He said: "Once that bear crossed the road, that was a legitimate hunting area over there. I could not restrict them. If I was to stop them for shooting, then I'd be interfering in a lawful hunt. That's why I could not stop them."
However, Mrs Locke said she and her family had seen more than enough and left.
She said: "I didn't want to see any more. I don't have any idea how they got that bear in their vehicle.
"They either had to park their vehicle up on the road right where the troopers didn't want anybody to park, or they had to drag it up the highway.
"The whole thing was so weird to me. I was kind of in shock. I just wanted to get out of there. There's a whole spectrum of levels on which it was just not right.
"It was like you could have been wearing a clown suit and shot this bear. It was not a hunt. I equate it to shoving my way through a zoo and shooting a bear in a cage.
"I'm just disgusted at the whole situation. My family supports ethical hunting, but this is anything but sportsmanlike. And any decent hunter knows if you don't have a clean shot you don't shoot. It took at least five shots to put it down, aiming up the hill while it was running away.
"And the response of the officers: I would have expected more out of the patrolmen. The whole situation was just extremely distasteful, to say the least."
Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said he got a call about the incident and it was under investigation and so couldn't comment further.
However, he did say that Fish and Game regulations prohibit shooting from on or across a roadway.
He said there was also a federal regulation stating hunters can't discharge a firearm within a quarter mile of the highway on either side of the road.
Mr Lewis said there wasn't any regulation against shooting in front of other people, but there are ethical principles that apply.
He added: "That is an ethical concern. In our hunter education programme and in our general dealings with hunters we try to discourage people from taking game in a manner that can disturb others.
"It's a public trust resource. Everyone enjoys wildlife in different ways. We try to discourage hunters from shooting game, even if it's legal to take it, in such a way that might prove disturbing to others, such as to kill an animal that people are watching and photographing."
Hunters shoot bear dead in front of horrified tourists - Telegraph