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Bob White, Part 2

This is a continuation of the interview done with Bob White by Rachel Mason, Karen Brewster, and Shannon Kovac on August 7, 2010 at his gun shop in Seward, Alaska. In this part of the interview, Bob talks about changes in Exit Glacier and the surrounding area, bear hunting, and the effect of Kenai Fjords National Park on his hunting activities.

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Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2010-05-12_PT.2

Project: Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park
Date of Interview: Aug 7, 2010
Narrator(s): Bob White
Interviewer(s): Rachel Mason, Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
People Present: Shannon Kovac
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


Changes in Exit Glacier

Criticism of the signage showing the glacier's location through time

Changes in animal populations

Bear baiting

Park's effect on hunting and trapping

Snowmachine use in the Exit Glacier area

Effects of the Exit Glacier Road

Learning how to hunt in the area

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned that there was more gravel coming in from Exit Glacier. Is that because there is more gravel exposed? Or -- how is that a change?

BOB WHITE: No, you know, most of these glaciers are picking up material from underneath the glacier as the melt water comes down and if you get out on the glacier itself --

We had a -- 10 years ago we had a boy scout odyssey here, and I ran a little ice climbing venue for the scouts up there on the glacier itself.

And we moved up about a mile from the terminus of the glacier and we were out on the lateral of it and you could hear -- if you acutally got out onto the field itself,

you could hear the rocks tumbling and the big chunks of ice tumbling underneath the glacier from the melt water running -- the stream running out from underneath the glacier.

And that's where the bulk of it -- the glacier grinds up all this stuff as it forms and moves and -- and then the water comes along and erodes and pushes that material up under the glacier

and introduces it into the environment and it flows down that delta in different high water events and it collects in slow spots.

And, you know, the slow spots are pretty much over where Resurrection River is, and it's -- and Resurrection River is pushed there by the, that stream you know, because of the material that deposites

and of course there's some glacial push out there as well, you can see some of the piles and stuff here an there.

But, that material is a hazard in the whole area, I mean it's a tremendous hazard, flood hazard in the -- in the Seward area.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then you said the signs were silly, what's silly that...?

BOB WHITE: You know, I -- I would -- I would pose some questions with the guy's sanity in his science. For example, there is some oddball rocks in Aialik. Did my father in law talk to you about those?

KAREN BREWSTER: He mentioned those. BOB WHITE: Yeah. And they -- he probably showed you one.

KAREN BREWSTER: He couldn't find it but BOB WHITE: Oh, okay.

KAREN BREWSTER: -- Shannon is maybe going to go back and talk to him.

BOB WHITE: And they were very iron oriented rocks, and he's -- his father was a mining engineer, and he imparted a lot of that knowledge to him as a child.

So it didn't make any sense the -- what Mr. Satin's remarks were about the rocks was not very practically oriented, and very ignorant, to be honest.

The rocks obviously had to have been ballasted from some other part of the world. They were not -- no rocks like it on the Peninsula anywhere.

We don't have that kind of formation here. Had we had that kind of formation here, the Russians would have exploited it because they were very deficient in their iron.

So yeah, so things like that. Some other pretty off the wall comments that the guy made over the years when he was here.

KAREN BREWSTER: But those signs like where the glacier might have been in 1974, you know, you were already here. BOB WHITE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember it being at that spot or it being someplace else?

BOB WHITE: You know, it fluctuated a lot back and forth there. You know, we had some really, you know, warm years that it melted back, and we had other years that it -- that it pushed out.

I know in the '80s, it pushed out quite a ways. And so it was pushed out about to where I think the '74 sign is.

And now it's melted back again, and you know, sooner or later, it will get enough, it will push itself back down the valley again. It's just what it does. But... KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

BOB WHITE: ...other places that just didn't make any kind of -- no practical sense. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

RACHEL MASON: Okay. Well, I'll ask an abridged version of my question. Have you noticed any changes in the animal populations in the years since that you've been hunting?

BOB WHITE: Well, yeah, we used to have a -- I mean, like I say, we used to have a 10 day moose hunting season in the early '70s here, and --

KAREN BREWSTER: What is it now?

BOB WHITE: It's from the 20th of August to the 20th -- so it's a month -- of September. And our moose population came up.

Back in the '70s we passed regulatory changes to only harvest the larger bulls and some of the inferior spiked fork bulls, so animals that wouldn't make the winter, typically the spiked forks are small animals that just don't typically make the winter.

And so we allowed that harvest, and then we went to over 50 inches, so we got some animals in the population that would actually be there after moose season when the -- when the cows could be bred, instead of shooting every bull, and then the cows not being bred from year to year.

And that made a pretty significant change in the -- in the moose population, but it also started to raise the black bear population because we were providing a lot more protein rich nutrients in -- in the form of calves in the spring.

And then the brown bear population caught on that there was something big to eat around, so they -- they moved down the valley, and we've had a lot more restriction on the brown bear as far as hunting is concerned.

And so they are not managed at all. Defense of life and property is our major kill on brown bears.

A rarity in the early '70s to see a brown bear track, let alone see a bear.

I think we saw one at 14 mile in the pond, trying to get a calf from a cow out there, and it did, eventually did. But that was -- that was pretty rare. That was in probably '76, '77, somewhere in there.

I would -- even hunting as far up as Boulder Creek, you'd start to see some brown bear sign up there because then there's some somewhat lethargic streams up there that the salmon accumulate in, and it was a source of food for them.

But that population that is up around Upper Russian has just exploded, especially with no hunting.

And I verified 11 brown bears on my site this year. On one of my bear bait sites.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, you bear bait.

BOB WHITE: I bait bears. And I put cameras out for that. And last year my camera at No Name Creek caught -- I don't know if you've heard about the sow and the two little cubs that were running around town. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.

BOB WHITES: Yeah, well, that bear, I got pictures of her with her boyfriend. A lot of pictures of her with her boyfriend. And you can guess the activity.

You know, they stay for a -- 24 to 48 hours and they breed about every 20 minutes. RACHEL MASON: Really?

BOB WHITE: Yeah. For a couple of days. RACHEL MASON: Wow.

BOB WHITE: And I had the same experience on my other site this year, although my cameras didn't capture it.

The bears actually came in, I heard them in the brush mating, they came down to the bait, and then there was some confrontation between the two and they wound up running up in the brush, and I could hear them again.

And I got the heck out of there. But that bear was immense. Both of them, the sow was huge and the bore was much larger.

And it was probably a 10, 10 and a half foot bear.

KAREN BREWSTER: So are you bear baiting for black bear? BOB WHITE: For black bear, yes.

RACHEL MASON: What do you use for bait? BOB WHITE: Typically dog food. RACHEL MASON: Oh, really?

BOB WHITE: Yeah, fryer grease and dog food. That works quite well.

RACHEL MASON: I've heard that doughnuts are really attractive to bears.

BOB WHITE: Well, when you can get doughnuts. But Safeway -- Carrs Safeway used to give them to you. You used to be able to get them.

And some idiot up in Fairbanks ate some and got sick and sued them, so now you can't get that. They throw them in the garbage.

So, one of the guys out at the dump scavenges them for me when they are convenient. But, it's cheap.

You know, but I go through about four bags of dog food on the bait season, and I get a lot of pictures out of it, so...

KAREN BREWSTER: And that's all on the Forest Service side of the valley? BOB WHITE: Yeah. Uh hum. KAREN BREWSTER: Is that where you're doing it?

BOB WHITE: Yeah, I ain't hunting over in the park.

KAREN BREWSTER: No, no, but my question was, before the park was there, would you have done any of that on the Park Service's --

BOB WHITE: Oh, trapping and whatnot, yeah. A friend of mine trapped right in front of Exit Glacier up there.

It was a pretty good wintering spot for moose right in there, and the wolves would typically get a moose down in there every now and again and give you an opportunity to get at them.

KAREN BREWSTER: So he was trapping for wolves? BOB WHITE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And successful? BOB WHITE: Oh yeah. Yeah. Wolves and wolverine.

RACHEL MASON: Did the establishment of the park, did that affect your hunting? BOB WHITE: Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely.

RACHEL MASON: How did it impact you? BOB WHITE: Well, there's a really nice meadow above Martin Creek. Actually just above where the cabin is at there on the far side that was open.

And, you know, I've over the years migrated materials, support materials to allow me to get across the river up there, and there's no need for it up there now, it's just not there anymore.

But having a boat there was, you know, kind of key to getting back and forth across.

KAREN BREWSTER: So you were well prepared at doing hunting up there, and then the park came and you were left -- BOB WHITE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- without access.

BOB WHITE: And I used to trap -- I used to have a wolverine set right KAREN BREWSTER: Go ahead and mark it. RACHEL MASON: Yeah, you better mark it.

BOB WHITE: Squeaky chair. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. See now you -- now you hear it.

What about just snow machining, things like that, did you ever do that up in that area?

BOB WHITE: Snow machine I used -- actually, I used dogs KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

BOB WHITE: -- to access up there when I was trapping. I had a small team, so I'd run two to four dogs up there to check traps and whatnot.

Probably not any more practical than a snow machine, but it was quiet, and a lot of times it would give you an opportunity to see stuff that you wouldn't normally see on a snow machine.

I've snow machined up and down the valley over the years but have probably skied it or snowshoed it or dog sledded it a lot more.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what's it -- do you travel on the river, or is it --

BOB WHITE: Well, the road was -- the access point pretty much the whole time, although with snow machine, in later years, I wouldn't use the road much at all, I'd just use the river bottom itself.

KAREN BREWSTER: And is it safe enough, there's not open water problems?

BOB WHITE: Yeah, Resurrection goes pretty near dry in the winter. There's a few spots that, you know, you'd need knee boots to get across during the winter typically.

I mean, there's some deeper holes here and there, but you know, you can get around on the river without worrying too much about it.

Yeah. Pretty much freeze over and you can get around pretty good.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you always were on this side or would you -- BOB WHITE: Both sides. KAREN BREWSTER: -- ever snow machine on the other side?

BOB WHITE: Both sides. Yeah. Yeah, both sides of the river. You know, the access up into the Boulder Creek area up the river was some on the trail, but a lot of it through -- you know, you had to -- the trail's not very usable in a lot of places, so -- for horses.

There's some -- actually some dangerous sections in the trail for horses or even people, for that matter. So there's some pretty narrow sections, and then you get some timber fall across the trail and you're just stuck.

KAREN BREWSTER: So you just have to go back out into the main river?

BOB WHITE: Yeah, the last time -- yeah, you've got to go back out into the river valley itself and work it back and forth that way. So...

KAREN BREWSTER: We didn't -- we didn't ask you if you ever went up onto the ice field up on the top of Exit Glacier.

BOB WHITE: No. There wasn't anything to hunt up there. You know.

Typically, you know, just with the Scouts, and I actually took a friend up there the next year. We were up there running around out on the field itself.

KAREN BREWSTER: By snow machine?

BOB WHITE: No, on foot. We hiked the trail and got the crampons out and actually went out on the Exit Glacier about halfway up.

RACHEL MASON: Well, is there anything else that you'd like to tell us that you want to make sure we get on record?

BOB WHITE: You know, the road's been, you know, and the tourism has been, you know, a great thing for the community, although I don't know how about the longevity of the road is actually going to be.

There's some pretty significant risks to losing the road connection, so that's kind of -- kind of where -- kind of where we're at with it right now.

The flooding issues up there are probably the biggest, the biggest threat to the development, especially.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you feel like the road has changed anything in terms of the animal populations? Has it affected that?

BOB WHITE: No, they don't seem to really care one way or the other. It's just another avenue of access.

You know, not much gets hit on the road animal wise, and it does give a little extra access to it, but it's not an easy place to hunt.

It's -- it's one that you have to be willing to spend a lot of time to learn the avenues in and out, and where the animals are, and how to approach them and have the right equipment to approach them, that sort of thing.

So it's not many moose killed in the -- in the area. You know, a couple of years is about average, I think. So...

KAREN BREWSTER: And you just learned it yourself, or was there a -- somebody here in town who taught you the ropes?

BOB WHITE: Rubber on the ground. Boots in the field. Spend the time. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I know you have a customer, so we'll let you go. Thanks so much for your time.

BOB WHITE: Yep. Well, good luck with the project.