An Alaskan pilot learned a valuable lesson recently while stopped at a hunting lodge in the backcountry: duct tape can fix practically anything, including severe damage to a plane from a hungry bear.
While this story was deemed a myth after circulating on Internet message boards for months, AlaskaDispatch.com confirms: it really happened, though some reported details of the story — like fish left in the plane — are inaccurate.
Bush pilot Luke Miller, 28, stopped over at a friend’s hunting lodge in Southwest Alaska in September 2009 to take shelter during a storm.
The lodge owner, hunting guide Gary LaRose, had recently had a few run-ins with a bear intent on stealing some moose meat from a shed, but had cleaned and bleached the space to avoid additional problems.
But that didn’t stop the bear from coming back for more. After tearing a window out of the shed and finding it moose-free, the bear apparently decided to give Miller’s plane a shot. LaRose discovered the damage in the morning.
"My headlamp hit Luke's plane and it was literally destroyed," he told the Alaska Dispatch. "My heart sank. It was just an unbelievable sight."
"He was pissed," LaRose said of the bear. "His easy food source had dried up and he was out for revenge."
After a few days of meticulous repair work involving plywood, Plexiglas, industrial-strength plastic wrap and 25 rolls of duct tape, and the plane was able to fly back to Anchorage.
The bear hasn’t been around since.
"He's off digesting some fabric right now. He just disappeared into the night. He doesn't know how famous he is," said the pilot’s father, Mark Miller.