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Bear Munches Plane To Get At Meat

October 19, 1987

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ A grizzly bear bent on a meal of moose meat wrecked a small plane to get at its tasty cargo, forcing pilot Ed Gurtler to flee by boat.

″As an old-timer once told me, you can always get a new airplane, but you can’t get a new pilot,″ Gurtler said. ″He ate well. I gave him everything but salt and pepper with the airplane.″

Gurtler said he was returning to his plane on a sandbar in the Innoko River near Cripple late Oct. 12 when he heard the aircraft taking a beating. When he got closer he shined his light on the plane and saw a big grizzly staring back. He fired a shot over the bear.

″He just looked right into the headlight,″ Gurtler said. ″What can you do then? Anything that big, at night, you’re not hunting him. He’s hunting you.″

The bear already had bent the plane’s fuselage by picking it up and slamming it down. The animal was determined to get at 500 pounds of moose meat inside the Cessna 170, Gurtler said.

When the bear ignored his shot, Gurtler said he retreated to his riverboat and headed back to his homestead.

The next morning, the 500 pounds of moose meat inside the plane had been reduced to 200 pounds, and the plane looked as if it had crashed.

While Gurtler waited, the bear returned each night. He had removed the moose meat, but that did not discourage the hungry bear.

″He tore the driver’s seat out of the plane,″ Gurtler said. ″Ate it for desert, I guess.″

The bear also got into the riverboat and ripped the seats out. ″Everywhere he could smell that moose meat, he went after it,″ Gurtler said.

The bear did as much as $10,000 damage to the plane, Gurtler estimated.

″I’ve had that airplane a long time,″ he said. ″I feel kind of sad about it right now. I don’t have no airplane. I don’t have no money. And I don’t have no way to get my meat out.″

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