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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Web of deceit
Lying, tall tales and big bears, oh my.

Last week, I told you how I got suckered into propagating the Web myth that duct tape can't hold an air duct.

This week, I'll tell you how I debunked another myth before repeating it, and hopefully, how you can do the same.

Urban legends are nothing new. They've existed as long as people have played whisper down the lane as kids.

The difference now, is how often the falsehood is passed along at the speed of electrons passing through wire.

Take for example, the e-mail I received from Jeff, a long-time friend, recently about a "World Record Grizzly."

A hunting permit in Alaska should be issued with an emergency frag grenade for cases such as this. This guy works for the forest service in Alaska. He was out deer hunting.

A large...really large world record Grizzly charged him from about 50 yards away. The guy unloaded a 7mm Mag Semi-auto into the bear and it dropped a few feet from him. The thing was still alive so he reloaded and capped it in the head.

Over one thousand six hundred pounds, 12'6" high at the shoulder. It's a world record. The bear had killed a couple of other people. Of course, game department did not let him keep it.

Think about it. This thing on its hind legs could walk up to the average single story house and could look on the roof at eye level. The third picture shows half a corpse. DO NOT EAT SOMETHING or view this last picture if you have a weak stomach.

At first glance, this e-mail seems legitimate. But something about it, bothered me. Maybe it was the sheer size of the grizzly or the fact that it was a man-eater. Surely, I would have heard about something like that before now.

The first thing I did to check it out was look up the word "Grizzly" in the news search engine of Google.

Within the first few pages, I found a few outdated links to a story about the shooting buried amid other stories. So, I refined the search by adding the word "Alaska" to it.



This picture of a bear with a paw the size of a man's chest was taken after it was shot by Theodore Winnen, a 22-year-old Air Force airman in October 2001.

Out popped a link to "Huge grizzly takes on mythical proportions," a May 8 story by the Associated Press that appeared in the Seattle Times.

In that article, the brown bear 22-year-old Airforce Airman Ted Winnen shot to death on Oct. 14, 2001 on Hinchinbrook Island, Alaska is described as "10 feet, 6 inches from nose to tail. Its front claws were 3 to 4 inches long. An Alaska master guide estimated the bear's weight at up to 1,200 pounds."

Sure was a big bear, no question about that. But the article also says, "The bear was not a record - and it didn't kill anyone, as far as it is known, despite some versions of the legend."

Tired of answering e-mailed questions about the bear, the U.S. Forest Service in Juneau posted a news release on the Web about it on Oct. 17, 2002, entitled, "Monster Brown Bear Urban Legend De-bunked."

It said, "Winnen was hunting the bear at the time of the kill, and shot the bear as it approached Winnen and his hunting partner, Jim Urban." For some reason, however, this Web page was ignored.


This picture of a "half-eaten" corpse was included in my friend's e-mail about the bear. However, the U.S. Forest Service in Juneau denies that the bear was a man-eater.

Two months later, Winnen recounted his story in the Anchorage Daily News on Dec. 16, 2001. "I picked up the paw and it was like, 'Good God.' The thing was as wide as my chest," he told the newspaper.

The Web buzz started after Winnen appeared on a radio talk show in Fairbanks, the Daily News article states. Photos from his hunt showed up later on the radio show's Web site.
I e-mailed the results of my Web hunt back to Jeff and he replied, "Awesome, thanks for the update. I guess it's true. ...just because it is on the Internet, don't think it is actually true."

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at . To read his previous columns, click here.

June 2, 2003