This is one of those “let the reader decide” kind of columns. It involves two incidents.
The first is a report by the Associated Press in newspapers Friday of a 13-year-old boy being mauled to death by an animal in the woods around Hindman, Ky., which is in Knott County, down in the southeastern part of the state.
The second report is on the largest grizzly bear in the world. It was killed when it reportedly charged a deer hunter in Alaska. He supposedly unloaded his 7mm Mag semi-automatic rifle into the bear and it finally dropped a few feet from him. It was still alive. He reloaded and shot it several times in the head.
More on that in a minute.
A BLACK BEAR?
The first incident is believable. The AP doesn’t print rumors.
Knot County Coroner Corey Watson pronounced the boy, whose name was not listed, dead from “suspected injuries stemming from an animal attack.”
An autopsy performed at the State Medical Examiner’s office in Frankfort on Wednesday morning likewise determined the cause of death “to be from injuries consistent with an animal attack.”
The decision the reader must make is what kind of animal killed the boy. Certainly, coyotes won’t attack a human. But might they, if hungry enough and traveling in a pack, attack a human, especially a smaller one?
A mountain lion? There have been reader reports of these big yellow cats spotted in both Kentucky and Ohio. Unconfirmed reports.
The most likely suspect is a black bear. Knott County is in the area where Kentucky allows an annual hunt for black bears.
Maybe a big male was trying to feed up before going into hibernation, or just awakening from it.
There was an incident nearly 10 years ago in the Red River Gorge area of Kentucky of a male black pinning a hiker against a tree. But he was neither clawed nor bitten before it was scared off by a group of hikers, coming down the trail yelling and banging on a cooking pan.
I interviewed the hiker for a story I did while working for The Portsmouth Times in 2010 or 2011.
THE GRIZZLY REPORT
The record grizzly story appeared on the internet. The deer hunter who allegedly killed by the bear was a worker for the US Forest Service.
A grizzly might weigh as much as 800 pounds. This bear was said to weigh (whew!) 1,600 pounds!
On all fours it would have looked an average-size man straight in the eyes. Standing, it measured 12 and one-half feet, fourteen feet if measured to the top of its head.
Think about this – this bear, standing on its hind legs, could walk up to an average single-story house and look over the roof, or walk up to a two-story house and look in the second-floor bedroom windows.
The Alaska Fish and Wildlife Commission, according to the story, said the contents of the bear’s stomach established that it had killed at least two humans in the 72 hours before it charged the deer hunter who killed it.
It was also believed to have killed a hiker. The US Forest Service, backtracking from where the bear had originated, found the hiker’s 38-caliber pistol emptied. Not far from the pistol was the remains of the hiker. The third body was never found.
Four 38 caliber slugs and a dozen 7mm slugs were found in the dead bear’s body.
The Alaska Fish and Wildlife Commission did not let the forestry worker keep it as a trophy. The bear was to be stuffed and mounted and placed on display at the Anchorage airport.
If I could see that, I could believe the story.
But I don’t, chiefly the part of the prodigious size of the bear.
The story was accompanied with a photo of the hunter posing behind the dead bear, which was laid out on its belly. It was a big bear, but I don’t believe any grizzly could be as big as reported.
BELIEVING A HOAX
I got suckered in on an Internet hoax story once before. It was a photo of a huge mountain lion, its killer posing behind it.
The story said the puma was killed in western Kentucky.
Turned out it was shot in one of the far western states.
BIGGER THAN LIFE
You may have noticed something about digital cameras: The closer an object is to the camera, the more its size appears to be bigger that it is.
For instance, a fisherman posing with five-pound bass: If he straightens his arm to hold the fish near the camera, the fish appears to be nearly half-as-long as the fisherman’s body.
And on NBC’s Today morning show, if co-anchors Hoda and Samantha are seated side by side, they are the same size as each other. But if one of them moves close to the camera, she appears to be bigger than her co-host.
Be careful in believing everything you read or see on the Internet.
Best advice for a newspaper columnist is: When in doubt, leave it out.
But I left this one for you to decide.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 932-3619.
Reach G. Sam Piatt at email@example.com or (606) 932-3619.