Scott Haugen learned to hunt elk, cougar and black bear just beyond his hometown of Walterville, Ore., but nothing he has experienced compared with the situation he faced last weekend, when he shot a polar bear after it had dragged a man away and eaten part of him.
Haugen, a 1988 University of Oregon graduate, found the body of a man killed by a polar bear in Point Lay, a small whaling village in northern Alaska.
Minutes later, he dropped the bear with one shot through the heart.
``It was a tough situation,'' Haugen, 26, said Monday in a phone interview with The Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore. ``I'm still shaken up by the whole thing.''
Although polar bears are protected under federal law, ``You can shoot one in self-defense,'' he said.
Haugen said he has been deluged with telephone calls from the media and from wildlife biologists from all over the country. He has been told that this is the first recorded U.S. case of a polar bear killing a human being. Scientists speculated that the bear killed because it was hungry.
When he pulled the trigger on his 30.06 rifle, Haugen was standing near the body of a man who was ``three-fourths eaten.'' It was dark and 42 degrees below zero, and the polar bear was less than 100 yards away, moving slowly toward him.
Polar bears can outrun a man and they can give a snowmobile a good chase.
The dead man, identified as Carl Stalker, 28, had been walking with his girlfriend when they were chased into the village of 150 by the bear. The friend escaped into a house. Stalker was killed ``literally right in the middle of the town,'' Haugen said.
Haugen, who moved to Point Lay this fall with his wife, Tiffany, is the town's sole high-school teacher and is known for his outdoors abilities. At 5 a.m. Saturday, a call went out over the radio that the only police officer in town needed help to find a bear that had dragged away a villager.
All that remained in the road where the attack took place were blood and bits of human hair, Haugen said. While villagers on snowmobiles began searching a wide area, Haugen was told by the officer to take his rifle and follow the blood trail.
He tracked the bear's progress about 100 yards down an embankment toward the lagoon. ``I shined a light down there and I could see the snow was just saturated with blood.'' A snowmobiler drove up, and in the headlights Haugen discovered what was left of Stalker.
He couldn't see the bear, however.
Then, as the lights of another snowmobile reflected off the lake, Haugen saw the hunkered form of the polar bear.
``When they hunt, they hunch over and slide along the ice'' to hide the black area of their eyes and snout, Haugen said.
``It wasn't being aggressive toward us, but I wasn't going to wait,'' he said. ``I ended up shooting it right there.''
Haugen said the incident has given him a new appreciation for the dangers of the Alaska territory. His change in attitude was confirmed by his parents, Jean and Jerry Haugen, who live in Walterville, just east of Springfield.
``That was one scared boy who called Saturday,'' Jean Haugen said.