Monday, October 5, 2009

Bears, Bears and more Bears

Early morning hike to the Kametolook River for some fishing and scouting for animal trails.  Although we only planned on being gone for a few hours, we had to pack for days. In Alaska, When you venture into the wild you never know what or who you'll run into!  I had 4 layers of clothes on, a fishing pole, spinners, multi-tool, extra socks, water, pb packet, bug spray, camera, bear spray and a compass.  A lot of preparation goes into a simple hike... but we had a good time, caught some silvers, found otter, fox, and moose tracks, and of course lots of bear tracks headed towards the village...not such a good thing.

My camp Kon-O-Kwee skills are coming in handy.  Picture of the school in the background.  It's out of place compared to the rest of the village and it's big for 23 students.  No shortage of desks or books here.

The waterfalls at Chignik Bay creates the feeling of being on a tropical island.  At least until the wind starts howling and the snow is blowing.  The first snow fell on the mountains when I was there.  It's a reminder of what lies ahead.

Chignik Bay

One of my running buddies who also acts as my bear guard.  Even though bears are much larger than dogs, they usually avoid them.  So, when I go for my runs I take a few of the village dogs with me and in return they get milk bones, which is a luxury in the village.

The ever changing weather produces beautiful rainbows.

Having the Honda will make a huge difference in the amount of ground we can cover.  Hopefully it'll be on the barge, which is expected to arrive next week.  Oh the places we will go!


It’s hard to believe it’s already October.  The year is going by fast and I still have so much to learn!  I’m proud to say that I’ve acquired the skill of cleaning and filleting fish and my freezer is full of salmon, halibut, and crab.   I’m currently learning about trapping animals and tanning the hides.  This weekend Andrew and I went for a hike to scout for animal trails and tracks.  We climbed quite a ways up a mountain and had a great view of both sides.  We found an area where foxes and wolves might run and ponds where otters will cross.  As we were enjoying the view we spotted a big brown bear, about 9ft 900lbs, walking away from the village.  Since he appeared to be taking our path, we decided to change course to avoid a confrontation.  Andrew carries a 44 magnum, so I felt pretty safe.  However, a bear is still dangerous after it has been shot, so the hike back to the village was a little nerve wrecking, but exciting. We made it back with no bear encounters.

There has been an unusual increase in bears in the village lately.  The natives believe it’s because the salmon runs were all late this year, the rivers are high, and the berries were not as plentiful as usual, which results in hungry bears.   This causes them to come closer to the coast looking for fish. From the beach they can smell the smoke houses and banos, which brings them into the village.  In the village they find food in the dump and destroy smoke houses to get to fish and dried meat.  At this point they are labeled problem bears and often must be shot for everyone’s safety.  Last night there was a bear lurking around our neighbor’s house at about 2:00am.  When he went to investigate the noise outside, he was greeted by mother bear and her cub in the window!  He shot his gun to scare her, but she didn’t move, so he had to call for back up.  Thankfully, she decided to look elsewhere for food.  Just tonight another bear incident occurred behind teacher housing with a fatal ending of two bears shot and one injured…so now the hunt is on at 10:30 at night for the injured bear.  The dogs are barking and most of the village will be up until the bear is found.  An injured, angry bear is more dangerous than a hungry one…. Stay tuned!

View from the mountain we climbed on our hike.  The Eagle below provided entertainment as we observed him looking for prey and fixing his huge nest.

I got lucky this week with my transportation and Billy was my pilot.  He is one of the best bush pilots in Alaska.    The plane in the picture above is referred to as the caravan and does much better in windy conditions than the smaller planes that only seat 3 people.

week of 9/28/09
King Salmon has pine trees!.. and more fall colors than the southern peninsula.

This past week I was in King Salmon for special education training.  Our school district has an audit this year, so we need to make sure all of our files and paperwork are in order.  Oh the joys of special education.  We spent 3 days on procedures and Federal and State law pertaining to special education services and IEPs.  In my opinion there needs to be a separate “set of rules” for Bush Alaska.  For one, the transition plan requirements include: students having a part time job, taking classes in their field of interest, visiting post secondary schools, etc.  This is difficult to implement in small villages where resources are limited.  Many students plan on working and living in the village after graduation and who am I to try and convince them otherwise.  Its one thing to present students with options and encourage them to continue with school or seek employment outside the village, but it’s another to push western society and lifestyle on them as the only option.  A huge part of the Aleut, Indian, and Eskimo cultures have been tainted by the "white man’s" culture.  Things such as store bought food, soda, alcohol, and motorized vehicles are a few examples of things brought into villages that have altered the way of life.  Village English is considered a second language.  However, it never use to be, so there’s an over representation of children identified as having a speech and language impairment.  In fact since I’ve been here I’ve worked with the Speech and Language Pathologist to exit 4 students from special education who were found eligible by a speech impairment when really it was related to their culture.
 I'm learning the importance of being a culturally responsive teacher and I'm able to use many of the strategies I used when working in california with hispanic students.  As much as I enjoyed growing up in western PA, I'm glad I ventured away to experience this great world we live in.

Bear season opened 10/1, so there are lots of hunters in the surrounding villages.  Some pay as much as $16000 for a 10 day hunt!  I personally do not like the bears being shot, I think they're beautiful and amazing animals to watch.  Most hunters don't eat the meat, and only keep the fur... stay tuned for some pictures of the hunter's kill

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