Category Archive 'Alaska'
23 Apr 2010

Moose Fun

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Baby moose (and family) discover the joys of a lawn sprinkler, Anchorage, Alaska, June 2008. In Europe, they call these elk.

3:52 video

15 Jan 2010

Bear-damaged Plane Repaired With Duct Tape Then Flown Home

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The plane is a Piper PA-18A 150 registered to Mr. Jonathan L. Miller of Anchorage Alaska

was not sure the story of the pilot repairing a bear-damaged plane with duct tape and flying it home was true, but liked the story so much they linked it anyway.

The original story (and photos) came from an Army Paratrooper forum posting, which gave no details beyond blaming the bear’s assault on the plane on fishing bait left inside.

Jill Burke
, at Alaska Dispatch, looked into this exurban legend, tracked down witnesses and recorded the actual story.

When bush pilot Luke Miller, 28, made an overnight stop at a friend’s hunting lodge in Southwest Alaska earlier this year, he had no way to know that a large and very dedicated menace would, under cover of night, chew and claw his plane to shreds. …
What follows is the tale of the bear’s destruction spree and the plane’s revival as told by the pilot’s dad, Mark Miller, and family friend and hunting guide Gary LaRose, who first discovered the bear’s fabric-eating, metal-bending offense.

Contrary to some reports, it wasn’t a fishy aroma that lured the bear in. The plane wasn’t full of fish, nor had it just been used to haul fish. The pilot didn’t radio for help — he used a cell phone — and the incident isn’t a hoax dating back nine years; it happened around Sept. 26 and 27, 2009.

And yes, duct tape and plastic wrap saved the day.

LaRose had already had a few run-ins with the brown bruin, which discovered it could use the new meat shed at LaRose’s lodge like a McDonald’s drive-through. One night, after breaking out a window, the bear grabbed a hindquarter of freshly-butchered moose, feasting on 60 to 70 pounds of it as it dangled through the window, still hanging from the rafters.
LaRose boarded up the window, and after returning from a guided silver salmon trip, butchered the remaining moose meat, put it in the freezer and cleaned and bleached the space to eliminate all traces of the meat.

The next night, the bear pushed out a screen. Two nights later he returned again, got the door open and knocked over a bucket of broken glass collected after the first break-in.

Miller stopped in a day or two later on his way to a piloting job for another guide. A storm was moving through with heavy rain and 25 to 30 mile per hour winds, and LaRose’s lodge offered a comfortable place for a night of rest. Offered a choice to tie down the plane out in the open, or about 60 feet from the shed, where it would be better sheltered, he chose the area by the shed.

“I figured the bear situation was done,” La Rose said. “The meat had been gone for three or four days and I figured it got the message.”

Early the next morning after a night of howling winds, in the dark before sunrise, a client reported another meat shed break-in to LaRose, who took a walk to check things out and discovered the bear had once again pulled out a window, but otherwise had done no damage.

No damage, that is, until LaRose remembered Miller’s plane.

“My headlamp hit Luke’s plane and it was literally destroyed,” he said. “My heart sank. It was just an unbelievable sight.”

LaRose was faced with the unhappy task of waking Miller up to tell him the bear had destroyed the 1958 Piper Cub’s wheels by clawing at the rubber, busted out the windows on the plane’s left side, and shredded fabric from rear windows to tail.

“He basically ravaged the whole plane,” LaRose said, adding that, in his 38 years as a pilot in Alaska, he has never seen anything like it.

Miller had a small amount of vacuum-sealed meat for personal use stored in plastic and stashed in the gear he had brought along for his upcoming job assignment. Despite all the damage done to the plane, the bear missed it. LaRose questions whether the bear was even able to smell it, and said Miller’s plane was otherwise clean.

Miller grew up in a family that owns a remote lodge and learned early on to scrub planes down with bleach, soap and water after hauling meat. He had transported caribou a few weeks earlier, and LaRose said he supposes it’s possible there was a hint of blood on board, but he’s skeptical, and thinks there’s a better explanation — one having to do with the bear’s fondness for the meat shed and its proximity to the plane.

“He was pissed,” LaRose said. “His easy food source had dried up and he was out for revenge.”

If malice was indeed the motivation, the bear knew how drive the point home. It took a dump next to its handiwork near Miller’s plane, LaRose said, and left a similar gift not too far away near where other planes were tied down.

After a few days of meticulous fix-it work, the plane was airworthy enough to fly back to Anchorage. Miller fitted the windows with plywood and Plexiglas, replaced the tires and the horizontal stabilizer (the bear either leaned on it or sat on it), and, according to Miller’s dad, fashioned a makeshift fabric skin out of 25 rolls of duct tape and some industrial-strength plastic wrap.

As for the bear, it hasn’t been seen since. It may have been “whacked” during bear hunting season in October, or it may be playing it smart. After all, bears know when it’s time “to get the hell out of Dodge,” according to the LaRose.

Then again, it may be off enjoying a satisfied rest.

“He’s off digesting some fabric right now. He just disappeared into the night. He doesn’t know how famous he is,” the pilot’s father, Mark Miller, said.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

20 Jan 2009

Fairbanks, Alaska Boasts Frozen Gore

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Local businessmen Rudy Gavora and Craig Compeau, shivering on a recent -46F day (-43.3C) commissioned local sculptor Steve Dean to convert a 10,000 lb. (4545.45 k.) block of ice into an image of Nobel Prize winner and weather prophet Albert Gore.

8 other businesses chipped in on funding for the sculpture and an associated Global Freezing Contest in which participants get to estimate how much colder or warmer the winter of 08/09 will be than the winter of 47/48 (when the Prophet Albert was born).

Prizes include 300 gallons of heating oil, a heated car seat, and a Ski-doo jacket.

Fairbanks News-Miner story

10 May 2007

Driveway Excitement

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If you lived in Homer, Alaska, like Gary and Teri Lyon, you could get up on Sunday morning and find a Kodiak Bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi) killing a moose in your driveway, too.


0:19 video 1

0:37 video 2

1:06 video 3

29 Jan 2007

Overloaded Eagle

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JUNEAU, Alaska: About 10,000 Juneau residents briefly lost power after a bald eagle lugging a deer head crashed into transmission lines.

“You have to live in Alaska to have this kind of outage scenario,” said Gayle Wood, an Alaska Electric Light & Power spokeswoman. “This is the story of the overly ambitious eagle who evidently found a deer head in the landfill.”

The bird, weighed down by the deer head, apparently failed to clear the transmission lines, she said. A repair crew found the eagle dead, the deer head nearby.

The power was out for less than 45 minutes Sunday.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

01 Oct 2006

My Kind of State

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In a NYT Sunday Magazine feature on Howard Dean, Matt Bai laments:

There were more Democrats in Central Park for the Dave Matthews concert a few years back than there are in the entire state of Alaska — all 656,000 square miles of it.

29 Sep 2006

Aleut Villages Spurn Chavez Oil

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Anchorage Daily News:

Leaders from four Western Alaska villages have rejected an offer of free heating oil from a Venezuelan- owned company because that nation’s president this month called President Bush “a devil” and made other inflammatory comments about the United States.

“Despite the critical need for fuel in our region, the Unangan (Aleut) people are Americans first, and we cannot support the political agenda attached to this donation,” read a statement from Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association released late Thursday.

Under a program from Texas-based refiner Citgo, which is owned by the Venezuelan government, that is giving cheap and free heating fuel to poor people across the country, more than 12,000 rural Alaska homes in about 150 villages are scheduled to receive 100 free gallons this winter.

Valued at about $5 million, the gift to Alaska is welcome by people in many poor, remote villages. Heating fuel exceeds $7 a gallon in the remotest villages.

Last year, 50,000 spongers in Massachusetts accepted more than 4 million gallons of discounted heating oil from the Venezuelan dictator’s program devised to score a public relations victory over the United States.

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