Monday, April 6, 2009

Bear Man of Admiralty Island

This dude was a real tough dude. Allan Hasselborg was one of those guys who knew what he wanted out of life and went about doing it HIS way. He came to Alaska as a young man looking for adventure and for a place to get away from the crowds. He found his niche helping the many exploration institutions who were coming to Alaska in the early 1900s do natural history exploration (Alexander Alaska Expedition, 1908, 1909, Univ of California Museum, Dr D.H. Merriman). He was a good shot and began shooting bears that these groups wanted for their collections to do further study. He was paid pretty good money doing something that he loved to do and became the "go to" guy for anyone wanting a bear specimen. He became a successful guide on Admiralty Island, a place that he loved, and eventually was given property rights by the National Forest Service to homestead land where he built a cabin and lived for almost 40 years.

He eventually stopped shooting bears himself, but continued to guide and probably became more successful guiding for still and film photography groups. Because he did stop hunting, many thought of him as a conservationist, which was an assumption made in error.
As for the bears, he had never thought much about wildlife conservation unless it affected him personality. During his years as a hunter, when he found areas where bears had been exterminated, he had been annoyed only because other hunters had gotten their first. He complained about poachers only when he thought he wasn't getting his fair share.

Wildlife wasn't sacred to him by any means; it was there to be used. As long as he had enough for his own use, he didn't much care about anyone else.
Bear Man of Admiralty Island, by John R. Howe, is based on the letters written and interviews with Hasselborg's family and clients.

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