Not news

A healthy grizzly bear on the prowl/Wikimedia Commons


If you think you’re getting your news from the news in Alaska these days, think again.

Most of what we call “news” now comes from government bureaucrats, and they seem increasingly of the belief it is their job to decide what is and isn’t news.

Despite a strong, 49th state public information law, basically saying that in most cases what government officials know you are entitled to know, there are a lot of people in state government these days making what were called “news decisions” back when journalists covered the news instead of just rewrote media releases.

As Austin McDaniel, the very nice public information officer for the Alaska State Troopers explained it, we “use our discretion….”

The discretion this summer appears to have been extended to treating the victims of bear attacks like the victims of rape.

Save the bears?

Whether this is meant to somehow protect the victims or the bears is unclear, largely because no one can seem to explain the policy except maybe the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which is of the opinion that information is no longer public; only reports are public.

This how Kari Winkel – Commissioner of Fish and Game Doug Vincent-Lang’s special projects assistant – describes that policy:

“ADF&G is an informational agency. We collect information and samples only when given freely. Then we provide the results of our research of this evidence as well as the evidence itself to AWT (Alaska Wildlife Troopers).

“Official reports to include the names of those involved are the purview of AWT and all original items collect (sic) by ADF&G are turned over to aid in the AWT investigation.”

The only problem there is that AWT  – the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, the troopers that wear brown shirts instead of blue shirts in the 49th state but are otherwise the legal twins of the Alaska State Troopers – don’t really investigate bear attacks.

AST/AWT investigates human deaths to determine their cause. If they are determined to be homicides, the investigations continue. If they are found to be deaths from suicides, accidents or natural causes there is no investigation.

The agency does also sometimes make a cursory effort to determine if a public safety hazard exists because of the behavior of a bear or other wildlife. But when it comes to attempting to determine the hows and whys of a bear attack, they simply don’t do that.

Fish and Game investigates

This is why Fish and Game last year conducted the investigation into the death of 46-year-old Daniel Schilling, who was killed by a bear while working on a trail just across Turnagain Arm from Anchorage. 

Whether the state agency is investigating the two bear attacks on the Kenai in the past several weeks – attacks which happened within a few miles of each other – is unknown, because whatever is going on is now merely information and the state agency does not share information.

It is possible Fish and Game managed to get DNA from bear saliva in the wounds of the injured people and determine whether the same bear was involved in both attacks, but again, the agency isn’t talking.

It is known that a dog was involved in the second of the two attacks. That was reported by AST in this way:

“Based on a preliminary investigation, an adult male was hiking on the Kenai River Trail with a dog when we encountered a sow brown bear and two cubs. The adult male’s dog chased the bear which caused the sow to charge the hiker. The hiker reported that he was bitten on the arm by the bear and he then entered the Kenai River. The bear followed him into the river and bit him once more on the shoulder. The bear then retreated from the area, and the hiker returned to his vehicle where he contacted emergency services. EMS transported the hiker to a Kenai Peninsula area hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. The bear has not been located by law enforcement. The hiker did have bear spray but was unable to deploy it.”

McDaniel could not explain why the man was not named in the dispatch as has long been standard practice for the agency.

Only a month earlier the agency reported “Allen Dewitt Minish, age 61 of Chitina, was surveying alone near MP (milepost) 117 Richardson HWY, approximately a half mile off the roadway when he unknowingly walked up on an adult brown bear. The bear charged and attacked him causing puncture wounds and lacerations to his head. After the brief encounter, the bear left the area and there was no indication that the bear was harmed in the incident.”

Crossing paths with a grizzly and getting attacked in the wilds of Alaska is something that can happen to anyone. Becoming the victim of a bear attack because of a poorly trained dog is another matter.

Asking for trouble?

Noted Canadian bear authority Stephen Herrero, the author of “Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance,” and colleague Hank Hristienko in 2104 published a short paper warning that loose dogs can be a danger in bear country.

“What the data does suggest is that in the vast majority of cases, it seemed as though the dog(s) had been running loose at the time of the attack and drew the bear to their owners,” they wrote. “It also appears that many of the bears weren’t focused on the dogs, but came right after the owner.”

The paper attracted considerable attention at the time and led to media warnings that people shouldn’t hike with their dogs off-leash in bear country although whether a dog is an asset or a liability really depends on the dog.

A properly trained dog can be an effective early warning system for detecting bears before they are noted by humans with weaker senses of smell and hearing. A badly trained dog, on the other hand, see “the hiker” in the trooper statement above.

Against this backdrop of warnings about dogs in bear country, getting mauled by the bear your dog brought back might be more than just embarrassing; it might lead some to question your judgment.

But is it the job of troopers to protect people from this sort of questioning? If so, they probably should stop reporting the names of people caught driving under the influence (DUI). Getting caught doing that is truly embarrassing.

Maybe the trooper dispatches should from now on report only that “the driver” was DUI. But then again, in the case of the bear-attracting dog, embarrassment doesn’t seem to have been a big concern.

Forty-nine-year-old Montanan Jason Umbriaco outed himself after the attack with a Facebook appeal asking for help in finding his year-old border collie, which ran away during the bear attack. The dog was found safe.

Umbriaco even agreed to an interview with the Anchorage newspaper, but where the bear spray mentioned by troopers was when Umbriaco was attacked remains unknown.

The interview Umbriaco gave to the Anchorage Daily News would indicate it wasn’t where it should have been – in his hand – when hiking in an area well-known to be full of bears.

The ADN story did not mention the spray, but did say Umbriaco “put his arms up in a defensive position” when the bear charged. This is not the sort of thing one would do if they had the spray in hand.

The story also described Umbriaco as “an experienced outdoorsman with plenty of backcountry experience” who “noticed scat (animal excrement) but didn’t realize it was bear scat.”

This is journalism today. But it’s better than nothing.


As to the attack that preceded that upon Umbriaco by only a couple weeks only a few miles away, little is known, and what is known is apparently wrong.

“Close to midnight, a bear charged them in their tent while they were sleeping,” KDLL radio in Soldotna reported on June 15 based on statements from witnesses who helped the people. “They had bear spray but the bear charged too quickly for them to use it.”

Officialdom largely refuses to talk about this attack, which happened near Skilak Lake just below the Kenai River canyon where Umbriaco was attacked. Both areas would be easily within the average, 195-square mile home range of a Kenai brown bear. 

What little information that was pried out of a state biologist is that the couple were sleeping in a see-through tent when they heard a bear or bears nearby and sat up. They then saw a bear and were attacked.

At the time, they were camped near the mouth of Hidden Creek, an area popular with both bears and people. It is plausible that a highly protective sow grizzly wandering through the trees there in the dim light of the Alaska night might be startled by people suddenly popping up from nowhere, which is how people going from prone to sitting positions in a see-through tent would look to a bear.

It is also clear the attack was not predatory. Grizzly bears that want to kill people for food have shown they can do that pretty easily. Thankfully, they rarely decide to do so.

Your odds of running into a serial killer are greater than your odds of running into a predatory bear, but it doesn’t take a predatory one to kill you.

The wounds from any bear attack can prove fatal, which is why people like Herrero have tried to learn more about attacks in an effort to find out how to avoid them.

Is it possible the Hidden Lake bear would have kept going if the people had stayed still in their tent clinging to their bear spray or firearm and ready to fight back until the threat passed in the night?

It’s pretty much impossible to know without talking to them to find out how exactly that attack went down, and without knowing who the people are it is hard to find them for an interview.

Herrero and Hristienko in their short paper mentioned the problems they encountered in trying to make determinations on the merits of dogs in bear country because “media accounts of events can be incomplete.”

Worse yet, media accounts can be sometimes non-existent because authorities withhold public information for “discretion.”

Changing times

Back in the old millennium, the members of the mainstream media used to regularly get their panties in a bunch about this behavior on the part of the ‘crats.

Journalists aggressively pushed government officials, and sometimes even went to court, to enforce the idea that public information should be public.

Now, however, what is left of the shrunken mainstream is so beholden to the daily flow of media statements that it seldom questions, let alone challenges, any authority out of fear the flow might be restricted.

And if that happened, what would they use for “news?”

Reporters might actually have to hit to the streets to talk to people again, and most of them simply don’t have the time for that. Not to mention that some of them might not like what they heard from the common folk.











when publishing the names of victims in press releases or daily dispatch posts, this might be the victims of a car crash, assault, or bear attack. If we are ever requested to release the names of anyone that we interact with, we will certainly do so, as long as it complies with state and federal law. Most of the time, we will publish the identity of a found search and rescue subject or bear attack victim that survives if there is significant media or public interest.


23 replies »

  1. Steve o, you defiined your methology quite well . Please proceed with proving your claims against steve s. . Proceed where you left off . You claim Steve s came out as anti science. Present your proofs then go on from there . If you cant do that then what you have done is slander or character assassination which is considered a form of ad hominem attack . ( or personal attack more specifically) they are actually slightly different. You have multiple attacks to proove up on . Do procede. ( it might be wise to look into rona shot side effects so you are not letting your rona talk for you 😉)

    • DPR,
      You still don’t understand what a personal attack or ad hominem attack is, do you?

      Steve S has been clear with his anti-science sentiment as of late, just read his comments. Pointing out that his comments are anti-science isn’t a personal attack, it’s simply pointing out exactly what he said and by definition the exact opposite of what an ad hominem attack is.

      • Steve o , I understand them quite well . The question is do you ? You attempt to claim steve s is anti science among many other contentions but you only offer your personal opinion. You raise the spectre of your contention that you are the expert on who is anti science or pro science. You ignore the history that even scientists don’t have unified uniform opinions on what is acceptable science and what is not! Who is anti science? And who are you to dub a fellow citizen as anti science without solid proof? The original statement wasn’t what is ad hominem ? the original request was for you to present the definition of personal attack. So Without proof of his anti science you resorted to personal attack and proclaimed him anti science. That’s personal attack in an effort to undermine his standing ( for who would listen to anti science) without proof from you other than your proclamation that hes come out as anti science. But low and behold you can not present anything but your opinion that hes anti science . Opinion is generally not considered good science. So in effect your statement was a personal attack and it was the pot calling the kettle black . Now i must bid you adieu and good night. May your sails be full.

      • DPR,
        You obviously know how to employ ad hominem attacks but you are having trouble differentiating between what one is and what one isn’t.

        Here’s an example of something that is an ad hominem attack: Your brain isn’t working properly.

        Here’s an example of something that isn’t an ad hominem attack: What you just said is wrong.

        As far as the evidence and proof you demand, just read Steve’s words they are still here in this thread and in other articles here…I don’t need to present anything since his comments are on full display, perhaps you should read them.

    • DPR…
      Thanks for speaking up.
      Steve-0’s comments remind me of a discussion on Twitter the other day.
      Rep Thomas Massie was getting called “anti-science” b/c he questions why anyone who had Rona needs the vaccination. Many went on to bash him & say he must have gone to Trump University to get his beliefs. Mr. Massie then showed his M.S. from MIT….said questioning science is at the ROOT of the scientific process. I really like Mr. Massie…him and Rand Paul & Ted Cruz are 3 of the few in Congress asking the difficult questions these days.
      Steve-O reads just enough to form his attack but usually misses the point.
      Like he believes everyone who follows a plant based diet is an “extreme vegan”…this makes me laugh since I doubt he really understands the difference. Guys like me that were wool clothing and hike in leather boots would never make the vegan circle…
      Same with “cloud seeding”…how could a guy who does not believe in science believe in Geo-engineering? Geo-Engineering is cutting edge science but news speak paints everything as “chemtrails”…which is obviously not the case. Anyone with a laptop can Google “geo-engineering at Harvard” and get plenty to fill an afternoon’s reading. I guess Steve-O would say everyone at Harvard studying Geo-engineering is a conspiracy theorist?
      Basically, he is an old boomer that does not have a clue about the younger generations or the current science at play.
      How else could he reject ALL the data that points to a rapidly warming planet across the globe?
      I have stopped replying to his banter since it is only a waste of my time…
      keep up the good fight brother as the positive energy will find a way to what is right…

      • Steve s. , yes I agree with what you said. Also These are trying times and we must all work together to keep our nation from disaster. Stand together as citizens. We must all watch each other’s backs ( mine included ) particularly people like steve o’s back . Whose eyes are not completely open. Teamwork is everything. Where we go one we go all. We must not allow ourselves to be mis led and divided. Steve o ,must be treated as a brother. As was said . Forgive those who trespass against us. 💪🏿

      • Steve,

        Let’s get real, shall we? The reason you stopped replying to my banter is because you constantly find yourself on the wrong side of the issues and you cannot back up your opinions with facts. Let’s take your little rant here that is filled with misinformation and outright lies.

        Nowhere did I say everyone who follows a plant based diet is an “extreme vegan”…nowhere.

        Anyone who has followed chemtrails for any length of time knows that the conspiracy theorists involved with it have tried to lash themselves to serious scientific research involving cloud seeding for quite some time, just like you’re attempting to do here. The belief in chemtrails conspiracy theories are not the same thing as serious scientific research involving cloud seeding…at all.

        I don’t know what age has to do with the discussion, but I’m pretty sure that you are older than me by a handful of years.

        Not once have I ever rejected “ALL the data that points to a rapidly warming planet across the globe”…not once.

        Your recent posts indicate a strong anti-science bias. Perhaps I’ve read them all wrong and you actually support science by discounting it, mocking it, and pretending it does not exist?

      • (Steve o , and related studies.) DPR et al . A peer reviewed year long scientific study ( by at least two unknown people) has determined steve o has confused his opinion as science. His innumerable statements masquerading as undisputed science in his mind has made it clear hes mixed personal opinion with Declaration of irrefutable science . These occurrences have been carefully catalogued by random opinion of DPR . Multiple subject control groups were utilized with only afew outliars having similar symptoms of opinion science and its self influencing determinations. These studies were by an independent scientist( DPR) . The studies and writer of this study were not influenced by financial aid grants or payments of any kind ( except a grant or two by way of a very reputable Mr. Fauci – god bless his soul for his generosity and only expecting a 10% kickback) therefore its true . Any one who doesn’t agree with this study has been branded anti science- post facto and must relinquish their opinion post haste ! As they have stepped onto the wrong side of the discussion and related echo chambers. ( and shown an independent freedom loving incorrigibly self reliant mindset that must be squashed before it spreads to mainstream America like covid!) The antidote/ vacine Against opinionated rufutable sciece is to read the history of uranium and the related disputes over scientific awards and related atomic theories by top notch scientists and their opposing views/ opinions. ( highly recommended studies) (remember anyone who doesn’t agree with the authors take on science has catalogued themselves as anti science and must be treated as an outcast – like thomas Jefferson and his untuly associates! Especially that blast-able Benjamin Franklin who wouldn’t stop contributing to science and liberty )

  2. Mr. Medred , it appears you are saying Thomas Jeffersons worst nightmare has come to be . Jefferson stated he would prefer newspapers without government over a government without newspapers . Except what we have now is the worst step where government is the newspaper. Jefferson recognized the free press as imperative / intergal to a free people in conjunction with educated citizens as the check on government. Without which the government would become as wolves . Assange is the definition of a press that is not free . The government becoming the press is the definition of government becoming the wolf . ( guarding the hen house) so we know it’s raining, the question is what kind of ark must be built to withstand the flood ? Assange just turned 50 in a super max . The us governments key witness just admitted his statement and evidence were fabricated and that the us government had paid him to be a fabricator and was bribing him to testify against Assange through petty cash and possibility of his own freedom. Yet the press is still in a super max and government has stepped into the role of informer .

  3. Today there are very few legitimate journalists. The mainstream media is only a mouthpiece for the government’s lean on what is newsworthy.

  4. I did see today where 60% of Americans view the media as the enemy of the People. I tend to think the number is higher.
    But, I did run across this story about an “experienced outdoorsman”:
    “The bear had awakened the woman and two others who were camping near the post office about 3 a.m. Tuesday, officials said. The bear then ran away.
    The campers removed food from their tents, secured it and went back to sleep, officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said.”

  5. Craig, have you come across any info regarding ‘noise makers’ on the trail; I have heard pro/con opinions on ‘bear bells’ Also, are you aware of any portable light weight ‘bear fences’ for campers?

    • Electric fences are now required if you want to camp over night in a National park in Alaska. They work very well. A set up that will surround a camp 25’’ X 25’ can be purchased at Airframes on Merrill Field. It is inexpensive and very light weight. I would not camp anywhere in Alaska’s wilderness without using one.

    • Anthony, if a bear will stand there when you fire a .45-70 infront of him, my assumption is bear bells will do little. Never used them and never would. If you can swing it get the mesh style fencing. I have seen when using the 2 and 3 thread fencing where a cub ran underneath the bottom line into the campsite. Another time where the battery was swatted at and disconnected as it sat next to a corner post.

      • Byran, thanks. Someone told me that there was a ‘study’ that seemed to indicate that bells might attract attention, etc. As a hiker, (sometimes solo) primarily on established trails, the brushy , lower elevation switchbacks are the most nerve racking (black bear on the trail) and it seems, not unreasonable, that ‘noise would alert an animal that wasn’t looking for a meeting with a human, on the other hand, maybe that same noise might provoke curiosity, etc. Note: I incorporate other strategies; consideration of time of year, time of day, local area, etc Re: bear fence, camping without, some sort of perimeter alert, I can visualize, not so easy, to wake up and react to an animal in camp, etc. Different considerations for different situations, and it’s not easy to get real time information on what actually might be the most effective. Per the article: leashed dog versus one barking 30 yards ahead.

  6. “Your odds of running into a serial killer are greater than your odds of running into a predatory bear, but it doesn’t take a predatory one to kill you.”

    Once I was driving a lonely stretch of the Alaska Highway when I saw a scruffy young man hitchhiking, As it was rather cold and a very remote area, I stopped and gave him a ride. He seemed surprised that I’d pick up a stranger. He asked, “Thanks, but why would you pick me up? How would you know I’m not a serial killer?”. I told him the chances of two serial killers being in the same truck would be astronomical…….

  7. There are very few legitimate journalists nowadays. The mainstream media is just a mouthpiece for the government’s slant on what is newsworthy. We are living in a Fascist society.

  8. We are fortunate here in AK to have the CNFAIC who – among other things – objectively investigate avalanches whether or not anyone is hurt or killed in the incident. People who were involved or witnessed the event can contribute their observations and people who weren’t involved can read the reports and learn. The Chugach Avalanche Informaton Center helps keep people safe in the backcountry and contributes to our understanding of snow science.

    We need something similar for human/bear encounters.

    • All the snow science in the world & yet highly experienced & trained guides die in avalanches every year across the state…I suspect the same thing would happen regarding “bear science” in AK.

      • Science is science. How any individual chooses to apply it is up to them.

      • Pete,

        Steve has recently come out as anti-science, he has decided that he knows best. He promotes extreme veganism (against scientific reason), chemtrail conspiracy theories (against scientific reason), hiding from the sun (against scientific reason), and who knows what else. He doesn’t seem to realize that people misuse science as much as they misuse everything for their own purposes.

        As you said science is science, some don’t believe in science but science doesn’t care if they believe or not.

      • Steve o , can you define- personal attack ? Perhaps you can also proove your claims that steve is anti science, that chem trails are not real, that steve believes you should hide from the sun to an irrational degree, how veganism is proven to be against scientific reason. Remember extreme claims deserve definitive and extreme proof . Dont just divulge proof of one claim. Also I would like to know how long it’s been since you took the rona vacine , which brand and have you noticed any ill effects like brain or heart swelling? Some have . Do start with the definition of personal attack.

      • DPR,
        If by personal attack you are talking about an ad hominem attack the Cambridge dictionary defines that as follows.

        Ad hominem:
        adjective (of a criticism, etc.) directed against a person, rather than against what that person says:
        •an ad hominem attack on his rival
        •I’m not going to be swayed by ad hominem arguments attacking me instead of supporting your own position.

        in a way that is directed against a person, rather than against what they say:
        •She knows how to debate ideas without engaging in argument ad hominem.

        criticism or attacks directed against a person, rather than against what they say:
        •He never resorts to ad hominem.
        •Her speech contained ad hominem after ad hominem.

        But you already knew that didn’t you. What were you saying about personal attacks and vaccines and brain or heart swelling?

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