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Hunter Larry Fitzgerald of Fairbanks, Alaska, displays the record grizzly bear he killed. The bear’s skull measured 27 6/16, making it the largest grizzly taken by a hunter ever recorded.

Boone and Crockett Club

A hunter in Alaska has been credited with killing a record grizzly bear, according to Boone and Crockett Club officials.

The bear’s skull measured 27 6/16, making it the largest grizzly taken by a hunter ever recorded. The world-record skull was found by a hiker in 1976, and is just 7/16ths of an inch larger.

Hunter Larry Fitzgerald of Fairbanks was in an area considered overpopulated by grizzlies by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The agency is trying to reduce bear predation on moose there. Fitzgerald stalked his trophy by fair-chase methods. The bear was killed in 2013 but required drying time before it could be officially measured and scored.

“One would think that a relatively accessible area, with liberal bear hunting regulations to keep populations in line with available habitat and food, would be the last place to find one of the largest grizzly bears on record,” said Richard Hale, chairman of the Boone and Crockett Club’s Records of North American Big Game committee.

Grizzly bear hunting is legal in parts of Alaska, but not permitted in the continental United States. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering proposals to lift the federal “threatened” status from grizzlies in some parts of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming as bear populations have reached controversial levels. Between 629 and 740 grizzlies live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem around Yellowstone National Park, and another 930 live in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem between Glacier National Park and Missoula.

Some researchers argue those populations are still too small to sustain public hunting. But others are concerned bear populations are outgrowing their secure range and getting into greater conflict with communities and agricultural areas on the edges of that range.

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

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