Sometimes I'm just humbled by the courage of our fellow man - from the Anchorage daily News - 3 November
Wednesday, November 3, 1999
Deer hunter fends off mauling grizzly
By CRAIG MEDRED
Daily News reporter
Sixty-eight-year-old Gene Moe was butchering a deer on Raspberry Island on Monday when a grizzly bear jumped him, knocked him to the ground and began to maul him.
The Anchorage contractor fought back the only way he could: He stabbed the bear with the knife in his hand.
A badly mauled Moe told Silver Salmon Lodge owner Peter Guttchen that when he sank his knife into the animal's neck, blood "spurted" out. Moe told Guttchen that he stabbed the bear twice more before it climbed off him.
Fish and Wildlife Protection trooper Allan Jones of Kodiak said the Anchorage hunter then recovered his rifle and shot the attacking bear three times. The shots, Jones said, apparently killed the bear.
Moe, despite being badly injured and alone, climbed to his feet and started hiking for the beach of the wilderness island east of Kodiak.
"He's one tough old buzzard," said nephew Doug Moe of Homer. "He's an old-timer, but he's got the heart of a 20-year-old."
"I don't know how far he walked," Jones said, but it appeared that Moe might have covered as much as two miles getting to the beach.
It was there, Jones said, that Gene Moe met other members of his hunting party. Seeing how badly he was injured, Guttchen said, they loaded him into a skiff and made a run to the nearby lodge.
The group came motoring into the bay waving wildly, he said. When he went down to see what was wrong, they told him they had a badly injured hunter.
Guttchen said he could barely believe what he saw. The bear had torn an 18-inch-long chunk of fat and muscle out of Moe's leg, and ripped skin hung loose from the hunter's shoulder and arms.
But he got out of the boat and started walking up the beach to the lodge. Doug Moe said he'd have been shocked if it had happened any other way.
"This guy is one of the toughest beings alive," Doug said. "He could walk to the North Pole in his day."
"He's an awesome guy," added daughter Jane Newby of Anchorage. "(But) I'd rather listen to his stories than experience them."
Family members said this was not the first near-deadly hunting accident for Gene Moe. He fell hundreds of feet down a Chugach Range mountain while sheep hunting in the 1950s, they said.
This time, Guttchen said, Moe was lucky to survive.
He was in pretty bad shape when he got to the lodge. Fortunately, Guttchen was able to reach the U.S. Coast Guard in Kodiak on a cellular phone. The Coast Guard sent a helicopter to rush Moe to the Kodiak hospital.
He spent seven hours in surgery there Monday night and Tuesday morning.
"The nurse said that this guy had so many stitches she couldn't even count them all," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Tod Lyons.
Moe is expected to recover from the injuries, but he was sedated on Tuesday and unable to talk. That left details of the bear attack sketchy.
Here's what was known based on interviews with the Coast Guard, troopers, family friends, hospital personnel, employees of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and lodge owner Guttchen:
Moe was hunting near Selief Bay on Raspberry Island about 25 miles west of the city of Kodiak in a party with his son and two others. The hunters had separated sometime before Moe shot and killed a Sitka blacktail deer.
Moe was dressing and butchering that deer in heavy brush when he was jumped by the bear. He told trooper Jones that he thought the bear might have been a sow with two cubs.
Moe told Guttchen he neither saw nor heard the bear before the attack.
"He was totally surprised," Jones added.
The bear knocked Moe to the ground, grabbed his leg in its mouth and began trying to throw him around. It then grabbed him by the shoulder, and Moe began stabbing the bear with the knife he had been using to butcher the deer.
Eventually, the wounded bear retreated, at least temporarily. Moe grabbed his rifle and started shooting. Jones thought Moe killed the bear. Doug Moe, who had talked to Gene Moe's son by cell phone shortly after the shooting, thought the bear was only wounded, and that his cousin was going back to finish it.
There was no word on what might have happened to the cubs, if there were any.
Lodge owner Guttchen said the Raspberry Island bears appear to have been particularly aggressive this fall because of a lack of food. Salmon runs were weak, he said, the berry crop was poor, and deer numbers dropped precipitously because of a bad winter last year.
Fish and Game biologist Larry Van Daele of Kodiak estimates deep snow and cold weather in the Kodiak Archipelago might have killed 30 to 35 percent of the deer last winter.
As always, state biologists say, Kodiak deer hunters have to be alert to the possibility of bear encounters. They advise hunters to hunt in pairs for safety, and drag deer to openings where they can see any approaching bears before beginning the process of gutting and butchering.
* Reporter Karen Aho contributed to this story. Reporter Craig Medred can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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