courtesy of the Alaska Dispatch
by Rick Sinnot
Another bunch of Outsiders suffer a mauling in Alaska. I’m not just referring to the grizzly bear attacking seven teens in late July. I’m talking about the drubbing dished out by Alaskans who believe a gun is the best — some would say only — insurance against a bear attack.
A flurry of swats and biting comments were delivered in response to articles in the Anchorage Daily News. Within days the first article racked up 945 often acidic jabs. Several follow-up articles provoked another 569 shots. Most of the authors used pseudonyms, but many comments appeared to be written by Alaskans.
What provoked the electronic attack? Seven teens ranging from 16-18 years old were in their fourth week of a wilderness backpacking course sponsored by the National Outdoor Leadership School. NOLS is a highly respected organization that teaches leadership, teamwork, environmental ethics, first aid, and wilderness skills, including bear safety. The group was on the first day of a “student expedition,” which caps the month-long course by permitting the teens to demonstrate what they had learned, without adult supervision. Surprised by a brown bear in the western Talkeetna Mountains, four of the teens sustained injuries. Three members of the group carried a can of bear spray, which none had time to deploy. The teens were not allowed to carry firearms.