The claim: A man who works for U.S. Forest Service killed the largest grizzly in the world.
The myth has grown larger than the bear ever was.
A viral Facebook post that has been circulating online for years claims to tell the story of “the largest grizzly bear ever recorded in the world” being shot.
The post, shared way back in 2014 by Joseph E. Botts, has a picture of a man posing next to a giant dead bear. It claims the man, an employee with the US Forest Service in Alaska, was deer hunting when a grizzly charged him from about 50 yards away.
“The guy emptied his 7mm Magnum semi-automatic rifle into the bear and it dropped a few feet from him,” the post says. “The big bear was still alive so the hunter reloaded and shot it several times in the head. The bear was just over one thousand six hundred pounds. It stood 12' 6” high at the shoulder, 14' to the top of his head.”
But the size of the bear isn’t the most shocking part of the claim.
“Analyzing contents of the bear's stomach, the Fish and Wildlife Commission established the bear had killed at least two humans in the past 72 hours, including a hiker missing two days prior to the bear's own death,” the post said. “Backtracking from where the bear had originated, the US Forest Service found the hiker's emptied 38-caliber pistol. Not far from the pistol was the remains of the hiker. The other body has not been found.”
The bear, the post went on to say, was stuffed and put on display at the Anchorage airport.
Much of this was copy and pasted from other times this claim has been posted, but at the end, Botts adds his own note.
“I would like to point out that the Padres at San Antonio Mission in California had a plaster cast of a bear's foot that was 14" across and a tracing on parchment that was 16" across, which would make it bigger than this bear,” he wrote. USA TODAY reached out to him for comment.
The origin of the story
The bear in question was shot by Airman Ted Winnen, of Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska, on Oct. 15, 2001, according to the North American Bear Center.
Winnen was deer hunting with a friend on Prince William Sound’s Hinchinbrook Island in Alaska, when they saw a bear fishing on the river.
Bear season was open, so when the bear was 10 yards away, Winnen “shot it through the head with a .388 Winchester Magnum and bowled it over,” according to the North American Bear Center’s fact-check.
In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, Winnen said while he was deer hunting, he had hoped for a shot at a bear, picking up proper permits before and bringing the right gun.
“It was amazing,” he said. ““I picked up the paw and it was like, ‘good God.’ The thing was as wide as my chest.”
The bear was 10 feet, 6 inches, which is large for a grizzly in the Prince Williams Sound area, but not a world record, according to Snopes. It weighed in at about 1,200 pounds.
Fact check: Raised dots on steering wheel are not Braille
What about the man-eating part?
That’s the stuff of campfire stories, and definitely not true.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game confirmed that the bear was not responsible for killing any humans.
Our ruling: False
While it was a large grizzly bear the hunters killed, it did not charge them, was not as big as claimed or a world record, and did not eat hikers. We rate this claim FALSE, based on our research.
Our fact-check sources:
North American Bear Center, June 8, 2003, Internet Hoax
Snopes, May 29, 2002, Bear Hunt
Anchorage Daily News, Sept. 27, 2016, Debunking the myth of a '1600-pound man-eating grizzly' from Alaska
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Story of huge man-eating Alaskan grizzly bear is tall tale