I've only been living in Alaska for a year and a couple of months now, but with the constant weather change, it feels like I've been here longer than that. It's barely September, and it's already beginning to snow. That might be the norm for most people that live in the upper part of the U.S., but I'm from Texas; it doesn't really snow down there. Now, since I've lived in Fairbanks, I keep hearing this story pass around about most of the bear attacks not being bear attacks at all. I found most of the stories childish and inconsistent, but there is one that has caught my attention.
A few months ago, there were many reported moose and bear attacks. Many biologists were saying that it would be odd for there to be any bear attacks because July is the warmest month in Alaska. This means they have a constant supply of food. Moose attacks, according to the biologists, are very common among hikers because moose are very protective of their young and highly territorial. Around this time is when the stories from the Native Alaskans began to circulate quickly. Alaska is one of the only places left in the United States that has tribes still functioning as they would have before any cities were established.
The stories were quite shocking and unbelievable, but very popular, not only in the Alaskan tribes, but in local middle schools, high schools, and even among soldiers at the nearby military installation, Ft. Wainwright. They warn people to stay wary of the "woodline" and to run West if you see "inuk arklark", which roughly translates into "human bear". I've always thought their stories to be a bit far fetched until a couple of days later, a 64 year-old man was mauled on his way to a family cabin near George Lake. George Lake is only 110 miles away from Fairbanks.
The elderly man was found roughly 40 meters into the woods near a cabin off of a snowy trail with his limbs nearly torn from his corpse. His car was parked on the nearby trail in an unsettling manner. It was a little red car that was parked as if trying to block other vehicles from going any further. It's not known in any unclassified reports exactly when he parked the car that way. Was it before, during, or after the attack? No one can seem to come up with a good reason as to why he would even do that. It all comes back to the stories the natives were telling everyone; the one about the "human bear".
My curiosity began to get the best of me, and I couldn't help but to ask questions. On a night out in downtown, at a bar & grill, I asked a group of native teens why they call it the "human bear", but all they could give me were vague descriptions. "Tall man, long arms that touch ground, snout on face, small eyes..." One of the native boys described it this way.
I tried to use my imagination to puzzle the image together, but I was a little too drunk to be honest. It was getting dark, I needed to call a taxi, and the bar & grill was getting ready to close.
I remember as I was standing outside, there were a few building lights on. The streets were empty, wet from melted snow, and the chilly air made everything seem much more quiet. The reason I remember this night so well, even being moderately intoxicated, was because I couldn't shake the feeling of being watched. The taxi came, I got home safely, and slept with the lights on that night.
In the morning, I realized it was two days after the old man's death, and I found an article about him in the local newspaper.
"---- ----- Killed In Bear Mauling" the title read.
It went on about how the one family member that was at the cabin during the time of the attack called police, and when the police arrived, there weren't any signs of a bear. After a few hours of scouting, troopers noticed a black bear roaming around and killed it. A biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game told authorities that after examining the bear, she wasn't even sure if it was a black bear attack, at all. "The bite wounds and damage done to the victim's body aren't comparative to the bears anatomy and capability," She said. I only ached to find out more after reading the article. I had to go to George Lake.
I made a few calls that Saturday, and planned to leave as soon as possible. I wanted to make it back before work on Monday. I made sure to tell everyone at work where I was going, and I even told a few family members. I didn't want to get stranded out there and have no one know where to look when they noticed I'd been gone too long. I packed some snacks, clothes, a blanket, fueled up my truck, and drove Southeast to George Lake. The further I drove, the more I began to realize that civilization doesn't exist this far away from where I live. The roads became narrower, made of gravel and dirt, but subtly covered with frothy snow. Fir trees bordered the roads so closely that I had to slow down for fear of hitting a moose running out of the woods.
I had been driving for nearly 2 hours when I noticed it. I found the car. It was blocking the narrow road just as it described in the reports. I stepped out of my truck and got a closer look at the old man's car and a way around it. I thought it would've been removed or something, but they left it here without any barricade tape. The sun was going down, I didn't bring a flashlight with me, and the air began to get cold.
I figured I could wait in my truck until sunrise, and then walk to the cabin using the road. As I made my way back to the truck, I heard a small twig snap nearby. Normally, I would keep calm and collective, assuming it was a moose, but with this being the place that the old man got killed, I couldn't help but run. I could hear twigs snapping and branches cracking faster and louder as I sprinted to my truck. I made it to the truck, opened the door, jumped inside, frantically making sure I locked all of the doors.
I wanted to see what was out there and I did. There it was, standing partially into the woodline, staring at me with a blank emotion. Beady black eyes, long dog-like snout, arms dangling as if they had no sockets, mangy skin that was spotted grayish on human skin tone, and ears similar to that of a bat.
My eyes began to water and a cold shiver ran down my spine as I began to notice its frowning and unnatural twitching. It seemed to be twitching uncontrollably. I reached down for my phone to take a photo of it, but as I looked up, it was gone. I quickly snapped a photo of the car, started my truck, and shifted into reverse. It came running from the opposite side of the woodline. Its arms dragging against the gravel, flailing and contorting, it let out a sound similar to a dog whining, but much deeper.
I'm glad I drove away when I did if not sooner. That's one image I won't forget. A few weeks later, I told the authorities about the incident (Omitting the fact that I went there two days after the attack), and they took me to speak with the biologist that was assigned to the investigation of the old man's attack. I described to her the animal-like creature that stalked me, and she looked me in the eye and said:
"You've missed out on a lot of school, young man."
While I felt she was insulting my intelligence, I asked her politely what she meant. She responded with, "You most likely saw a brown bear, it was dark outside, and you could have imagined things on the bear that weren't really there. Most people get very shocked in this way, so it's understandable."
"Miss, I know I might not know as much about bears as you do, but I do know that bears don't run with just their hind legs." I said to her as I stood up to leave.
She looked up at me with the most worried expression I have ever seen. Her eyes appeared to have watered up as she clicked her pen repeatedly. Before I left the room, I remember she whispered to herself, "It can't be."
Written by YakuYabai