The Bears of Katmai Preserve Need Your Help

This letter is from a bear viewing guide in the Katmai Preserve - the letter and video highlight the plight of grizzlies whose range includes preserved and hunted areas.

I just wanted to update you guys on a hot issue up here. The more gas in the fire the better. I witnessed people doing the unspeakable and I will never forget it. This was a nightmare. I assisted and accompanied a photographer from Homer to film the bear hunt in the Katmai preserve, adjacent to Mcneil River and Katmai national park. They kill about 35 bears during each hunting year (every other year) in this area which serves as the late season feeding grounds for McNeil and Katmai bears, mostly sows and cubs. The bears are all habituated to humans- they trust people. This "harvest" or slaughter acts as a population sink for the invaluable bears that constitute the booming bear viewing industry of the Alaska Peninsula. It is also cruel, unethical and inhumane. I think it will be a very powerful piece. It is supposed to air tomorrow night on Channel 2 KTUU anchorage evening news.

We spent a day watching and filming the bears before the hunt, illustrating the obvious habituation to people. These were Mcneil, Brooks and Katmai coast bears. Bears were everywhere, mostly sows and cubs and single females- no boars. A beautiful, young blond female hung around our camp, eating berries, fishing and bedding down in the bushes 30 yards from our camp. On the 1st we watched a party of 3 walk up to her as she carried a fish up the bank of the lake. She was oblivious to their presence until, at 20 yards or less, one man let an arrow go into her chest. The guide put two bullets into her before she disappeared into the grass and came our direction. She stood up and looked at us with a look of sheer terror 20 yards away before hiding in the alders. The guide found her and shot her 4 more times. We filmed and watched all this while set up 10 feet from our camp. The bear was killed 50 yards or less away. We then saw them gut her like a catfish, leaving the white carcass to attract more bears for the next day's hunt.

We saw and heard at least half a dozen bears killed on the 1st. As soon as first light came bullets echoed across Narrow Cove and from Battle Creek. My heart sank deeper than ever before. From the air when we left we saw bears fishing and eating berries right next to the ominous tent camps, people were skinning bears, hunting parties stalked the hills, and white bear carcasses were floating in the lake. It was a massacre. It bothered me more than I even could have imagined.

We got what we wanted, but I wished I had never seen that. In a way, however, I am thankful, because it has increased my motivation to work for the cause.

I got a call from a friend of mine from Iliamna who said he heard that the state troopers were on their way to arrest us, but we took off before they arrived. Our group and actions are under investigation, and we "should be expecting a visit."

We were confronted by the hunters who were aggressive, there were hot words exchanged, and I wasn't very friendly to them. They want to press charges for hunter harassment which is illegal. Meghan told me last night that the park service told her that commenting on the hunt for the news piece "puts them in an awkward position since we are under investigation." Everyone wants charges to be pressed because it would bring more attention to the issue, but we did not harass the hunters, and what we did was not illegal. So it should be fine.

I have seen a couple plane crashes, and some very disturbing things as an EMT- this, to me, was exponentially worse.

Here is the footage:

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