The BIA Site is surrounded by many patches of brush that could hide animals. It was initially reserved for the U.S. Air Force in 1951 during the Cold War years (1947-1991) after the Korean War and was called the Bethel Air Force Station. The Air Force developed it and became known as the “White Alice Communication System” site, a radar warning system in case Alaska was attacked by the then-Soviet Union (which dissolved in 1991). The Bethel Airport was initially built to bring in construction materials and personnel for the White Alice Site.
In 1963, the U.S. Department of Interior was given 125 acres at the site, when the White Alice radar operations were deactivated due to high maintenance costs. The Bureau of Indian Affairs then began providing various social and education services, such as being a “district office” for elementary schools in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. It was called the BIA Site from then on.
In 1993, about 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from the bulk fuel storage tanks at the BIA Site, and the spill flowed downhill onto Bethel Native Corporation lands to the north. Clean up of the fuel required building a dirt road to the very bottom of the hills, and today that road is used by hunters and berrypickers to reach lands further north of the BIA site.
Early one morning in the fall of 2014, a girl in her twenties decided to go hunting behind the BIA Site by herself and instead saw a mysterious hairy creature. She wants to remain anonymous and this is her story:
I drove to the gate that leads to the BIA road and walked north toward the Atmautluak Trail. I carried a 20-gauge shotgun and hiked along the road, and then on hills and between lakes looking for birds.
I kept moving north and passed the Atmautluak Trail, hit a dry lake and walked along the lake bottom. It was like a bowl surrounded by bushes with a patch of brush in the middle. Off to the right was row of brush, and as I was walking there I began smelling a strong offensive odor, something like old urine and decaying meat. I also noticed a lot of bird bones in the gulley and more bones the closer I got to the middle. I then looked toward the tall brush and saw a head and upper portion of a figure covered in reddish-brown hair in the middle of the brush and just as quickly it disappeared.
“Oh no! A bear,” I thought at first. I called a friend to let him know my location just in case. I turned and walked to the left side of the dried lake and up a hill to put myself some distance away from it. While walking I’d glance back at the figure and curiously it would pop up its head up for a moment and then back into the brush, as if it realized it was being seen and hid from me. It did this over and over as I was walked away and glanced back at it.
As long as I could see it I would glance back to make sure it was not coming for me. Its head would pop up and go back down whenever I turned my head toward it. I got to the top of the bowl on the north side, and sat down and ate a snack keeping an eye on the figure to see if would do something but it stayed in the same spot, popping its head up and down. I kept on going and soon I could no more see the animal when I went over some hills and beyond sight of the figure.
Thinking I was far enough from the animal, I sat down in a nice spot and waited for birds to come by. I thought and wondered about what I had seen. Whatever I saw was not acting like a bear, which would have walked out of the brush from either side or could have even charged me. A bear wouldn’t pop its head up and down in the brush repeatedly as if it was hiding from me, like this animal did every time I looked at it. It didn’t even have the shape of a bear’s head, nor had the big rounded ears they have.
After a couple of hours of hunting and having trouble with my spent shells ejecting, I decided to head back home. I figured I had hiked five hours from the BIA Site to this hiding spot. Walking back, I neared the area where I had seen the reddish-brown figure, but it didn’t look like it was there anymore. Still I walked well away from the brush and on the other side of the hill where I had seen it.
Soon I hit the bowl again and began smelling the offensive odor again. But looking around I saw nothing, yet I had an uncanny feeling of being watched. I hurried up and walked a little faster while glancing behind me to see if I was being followed. Finally, a couple of hours later, I thought I was safe and far enough away and so rested on the tundra.
While I rested, clumps of tundra suddenly landed near me. I quickly turned and looked around to see where it could have come from or what might have thrown it but saw nothing! This frightened me so I got up and started hurrying away. As I was walking away more tundra was thrown at me and landed near me. I started running when I felt I was being followed.
At first I ran toward the direction of the Larson’s Subdivision, but made a long rounding loop toward the BIA site where my car was parked. I finally reached the BIA Site after running almost non-stop, sweating profusely but not caring about it. I got in my car and drove home.
Later I told my dad about what I saw and got an earful instead. My dad said, “You had a run-in with a Bigfoot that’s in that area so don’t go hunting out there by yourself EVER again!” I have not gone out there alone ever since.
Earlier that spring in May 2014, in the same area, two bird hunters had come upon a Bigfoot-like hairy creature sitting alongside a lake and observed it for a time before leaving it alone. They said it appeared to be eating. Their story was published in the June 4, 2014 edition of the Delta Discovery.