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World Record Grizzly Bear - Analysis

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CIRCULATING CONSTANTLY in one form or another since November 2001, this forwarded email tale seems to grow taller by the year. It has been established that at least two of the accompanying snapshots -- the ones showing a hunter posing beside the carcass of an incredibly large Alaskan brown bear -- are authentic. We know where and when they were taken, and by whom. The origin of the third photo purporting to show the remains of the behemoth's "last victim" is unknown. It was appended to the already-circulating email in late 2002 and doesn't appear to have been taken at the same time as the others.

Not quite a world record

In real life, the big grizzly in the first two photographs measured 10' 6" from nose to tail and weighed an estimated 1,000 to 1,200 pounds - unusually large for the vicinity in which it was found, says the USDA Forest Service, but not quite a world record, nor even a record for Alaska. It was killed on October 14, 2001 by U.S. Air Force Airman Theodore Winnen on Hinchinbrook Island, Prince William Sound. The photos were taken by his hunting partner, Staff Sgt. James Urban. Both were stationed at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks at the time.

Though the bear was within 10 yards of the hunters' position and moving towards them when he fired the first shot, Winnen says, it did not charge them, contrary to what the email claims. "I don't know if the wind was in our favor or what," he told the Anchorage Daily News. "We were dressed in camouflage. He might not have seen us." Winnen's weapon was a 338-caliber Winchester Magnum, not a 7mm semi-automatic as alleged. The first bullet pierced the bear's brain but left it standing; five more in the chest brought it down.

No man-eater, says Forest Service

Was the bear a man-eater, as claimed in the email? No, says the Forest Service, there is no evidence of that. When asked by the Anchorage Daily News to comment on the horrific final image of what appears to be a partially-eaten human victim, Forest Service spokesman Ray Massey admitted he hadn't even looked at it. "I didn't want to see a photo of the body," he said. "I know it's bogus."

More outrageous animals:
Hoax Quiz: Can YOU Spot the Fakes???
Image Gallery: Crazy Critters!
Photo Fakery: Animals & Insects


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Sources and further reading:

Monster Brown Bear Urban Legend Debunked
USDA Forest Service news advisory, 17 Oct 2002

The Truth About Alaska's Monster Bear
Anchorage Daily News, 7 May 2003

Giant Bear Grows on the Internet
Anchorage Daily News

Legend Brewin'
Anchorage Daily News, 16 Dec 2001


Last updated: 05/07/03


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