Fact Check

Bear Hunt

Photographs allegedly show an enormous bear killed by an Alaskan hunter back in 2001.

Published May 28, 2002

Image Via Shutterstock
Photographs show an enormous bear killed by an Alaskan hunter.

Photographs of an enormous bear supposedly killed by an Alaska hunter hit the Internet in 2002:

How would you like for this monster to walk up on you in the woods? Check out the size of the paw in relation to the guy's head!!!

This bear was killed down on Hitchenbrook Island by an airman stationed at Elmendorf.

The bear measured 12' 6" and was estimated at over 1600lbs.

The guy was walking to his hunting area and the bear stood up only 35 yards away. The bear dropped down and went straight for him. He emptied his gun and the bear fell 10 yards from him.

Subject: Alaskan Critters

The attached picture is of a guy who works for the forest service in Alaska. He was out deer hunting. A large...large world record Grizzly bear charged him from about 50 yards away. The guy unloaded a 7mm Mag Semi-auto into the bear and it dropped a few feet from him. The thing was still alive so he reloaded and capped it in the head. It was over one thousand six hundred pounds, 12 feet 6 inches high at the shoulder. It's a world record. The bear had killed a couple of other people. Of course, the game department did not let him keep it. Think about it. This thing on its hind legs could walk up to the average single story house and could look on the roof at eye level."

The photographs displayed above are authentic, and the basic story of their origins are correct, but, predictably, some of the details have been altered or exaggerated as the pictures have traveled around the Internet.

The slain bear shown in these images was shot to death in October 2001 by 22-year-old airman Ted Winnen stationed at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska. His encounter with the enormous ursine took place while he was deer hunting on Hinchinbrook Island in Prince William Sound, as he described to an Anchorage Daily News reported in December 2001:

Winnen and three hunting buddies were dropped off on Hinchinbrook Island in the heart of Prince William Sound by an air taxi on a cool, rainy Oct. 14 morning.

Hinchinbrook is a 165-square-mile island near Cordova with an estimated population of about 100 brown bears, giving it the distinction of harboring the highest density of bears of any island in the Sound, according to Dave Crowley, Cordova area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Four to six bears are killed by hunters on the island every year, though rarely one of more than 400 pounds.

Winnen wasn't there to hunt bear. Instead, he and his hunting buddies packed for a week of hunting for Sitka blacktail deer on the remote, wooded island. Winnen did, however, pick up a permit to shoot a bear just in case.

On day two of the group's hunt, the skies cleared at 8:30 a.m. Winnen and Eielson Staff Sgt. Jim Urban set out to follow a creek bed upstream looking for deer. Urban was carrying a .300-caliber Winchester Magnum. Winnen was carrying his significantly more powerful .338-caliber Winchester Magnum in case a bear crossed their path.

In the creek, they spotted a deep pool with 20 salmon circling.

"By this time, the ... run was over and the salmon were looking pretty nasty," Winnen said. "We started thinking that we were looking at a bear's dinner plate."

That got Winnen in what he calls "bear mode."

The two men continued following the creek upstream until they came to a small island ringed with thick brush. Some end-of-season blueberries clung to the surrounding brush. In the middle of the island was a spruce tree larger than what Winnen could fit his arms around. At the base of the tree were signs that an animal had tried to dig a hole.

About 9:30 a.m., Winnen glanced upstream.

Forty yards away was a big brown bear with all four paws in the creek, flipping over logs looking for salmon.

"He's a shooter," Urban said under his breath.

"So I started getting in the zone," Winnen said. "When I am going to take an animal, I am really concentrating. We racked shells into our guns and took off our packs and left them by the tree."

The hunters moved a few feet upstream. About halfway between them and the bear was a large fallen tree.

"I said, 'When the bear crawls over that log, he will present his vital areas and we'll take him,'" Winnen recalled. "I brought the rifle up to take a shot, but the bear moved over the log like it wasn't there.

"I thought, 'Oh crap.' I didn't have a chance to get a shot off."

As the bear kept coming along the creek, the two hunters momentarily lost sight of him in a thicket, so they retreated back to the big spruce.

"We were sitting there concentrating when, a few seconds later, he pops up right in front of us, about 10 yards away and he was coming toward us," Winnen said. "I don't know if the wind was in our favor or what. We were dressed in camouflage. He might not have seen us."

"I put the scope on him. I wanted to hit him in the chest, but all I seen was nothing but head.

"My partner said, 'Shoot! Shoot!'" Winnen said. "I aimed for his left eye, but the bullet takes an arc and I hit about two inches low in the side of his muzzle and into his brain.

"He buckled backwards and raised his head like he was going to howl at the moon, but nothing came out,'' Winnen said. ''I put two more rounds in the vital area, then three more after that. Six total."

"It was amazing"

"We watched for a few minutes, I reloaded and Jim brought his gun up on him," Winnen said. "I approached from the rear and poked him in the butt to see if he was going to jump, but he didn't move. He was dead."

"It was amazing when I got close to him," Winnen said.

"I picked up the paw and it was like, 'good God.' The thing was as wide as my chest."

After the kill, Winnen and Urban spent six hours skinning the bear — and trying to drag its hide and skull back to the Forest Service cabin they had rented.

As this account demonstrates, some of the details in the text that now accompanies these photographs is incorrect:

  • Ted Winnen, who shot the bear, was an airman with the U.S. Air Force, not a Forest Service employee.
  • The bear was large, but not a "world record 12 feet 6 inches high at the shoulder" and weighing "over one thousand six hundred pounds." The ursine bagged by Mr. Winnen measured 10 feet, 6 inches from nose to tail and its weight was estimated at between 1,000 to 1,200 pounds — an extraordinarily large bear for the Prince William Sound area (about double the average size), but not a world record.
  • The bear was coming towards Winnen and his hunting partner from about 10 yards away, but nobody knows for sure whether it was "charging them." According to the two hunters, the bear may not even have been aware of their presence.
  • Winnen bagged the bear with a .338-caliber Winchester Magnum, not a "7mm Mag Semi-auto."

Here's another photograph of the hunters posing with their ursine prey:

In 2003 another photograph began to be circulated in conjunction with the pictures shown above, purportedly showing a human victim who was the bear's "last meal":

Although this is presumably a genuine photograph of human remains gnawed by one or more animals, it has nothing to do with the bear pictured above. This photograph comes from a completely different source and was only tacked on as an addendum to the bear story after both had been circulating independently for over a year. The bear shot by Ted Winnen was not known to have killed any humans.


Phillips, Natalie.   "Giant Bear Grows on the Internet."     Anchorage Daily News.   16 December 2001.

Porco, Peter.   "The Truth About Alaska's Monster Bear."     Anchorage Daily News.   7 May 2003.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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