Bear sow, two cubs tear through 13-year-old's 4-H project

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2005

KENAI - Thirteen-year-old Maya Johnson had planned to show her dairy goat Annie at this year's Kenai Peninsula State Fair in Ninilchik. She also had some chickens that were part of an egg-laying project for the Funky Farmers 4-H Club.

But things didn't turn out as planned. She told the Soldotna City Council a brown bear sow and her two cubs ripped through a barn three weeks ago, dismembering 11 chickens, a goat and a duck.

Many children across America spend the first half of the year learning about raising farm animals and preparing farm products for market through 4-H clubs. Kids in Alaska have some special lessons to learn.

Johnson made a formal presentation of her 4-H projects to the city council last week. She told them the duck was going to be a 4-H project of her brother, Keir, 9. She also planned to show Annie at the fair.

"I've had her since she was born five years ago," Johnson said.

Luckily, the bears did not get into the club's swine pen, and the Funky Farmers are continuing to pursue their goal of readying their Yorkshire-Hampshire crossbreed pigs for the August fair on the peninsula and the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Aug. 25.

Besides the Johnson youths, others raising the seven pigs include Scott Haberman, 10, Nathan Carrico, 12, and Christian Carrico, 11.

According to Johnson's mother, Natasha, bears have gotten in with the family's animals previously, but never killed them.

"That night it was just like carnage. There were animal parts everywhere," Natasha Johnson said of the chickens, duck and goat.

Those small animals were being kept at the Johnsons' 10-acre farm across from Ridgeway Farms, and the pigs were in a pen at the farm.

The pigs, which were born Feb. 28, currently are between 110 and 180 pounds, and Maya Johnson said her goal is to have her pig at 270 by Aug. 20, the day of the fair auction in Ninilchik.

Part of the 4-H market livestock project includes tracking the day-to-day weight of the animals and learning pricing of the animals for market, Johnson said.

In the past, she has received bids on her animals from prominent figures such as former Gov. Tony Knowles, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and former Kenai Mayor John Williams.

So far, none of the politicians has bid successfully on her animals, she said.

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