Read the state Department of Natural Resources letter to the reality show miners here. Love it or hate it, get ready for more of "Gold Rush: Alaska." The show appears poised for a second season according to the promo for this special one-hour episode.
By KYLE HOPKINS
In one of the first episodes of “Gold Rush: Alaska,” the new Discovery Channel series about six men transplanted from Oregon to Southeast Alaska in hopes of striking gold, a brown bear wanders into camp.
Unattended graham crackers might be to blame, luring the animal into the combination mining claim and reality TV set, more than 2 million viewers learned in the episode’s debut. On screen, the would-be miners grab their guns.
“That bear’s not going to get in between my son and I,” says Greg Remsburg, one of the stars of the show.
Remsburg pumps a shell into the chamber of his rifle. “That I guarantee ya,” says the miner, who is described by Discovery as an “unemployed construction supervisor" from Sandy, Oregon.
Sure enough, a bear is killed by the end of the episode. “The team has made the camp secure,” the narrator concludes.
What viewers aren’t told is that no one had to shoot the bear to save a life or protect property at the mining claim on Porcupine Creek, according to a review by the state Department of Natural Resources.
“The bear that was shot did not appear to be the same bear that entered your camp, and was not in camp when it was killed,” geologist Bill Cole wrote in a Jan. 5 letter to head miner Todd Hoffman.
SHOOTER HAD BEAR TAG
Hoffman's character on the show is “the boss,” according to the Discovery website, which says the series is about a group of unemployed buddies who “risk everything” in the face of the national economic meltdown. Their plan: Get rich in Alaska.
The miners’ ability to escape danger, including the local wildlife, is a repeating theme.
But one thing about shooting reality television in Alaska — Alaskans are watching, too. Many Daily News readers panned the gold-mining show and others in a recent online survey as misleading and sensationalized.
“As they (the miners) had already acquired a tag to shoot a bear, it appears to have been a phony confrontation designed to make the TV show more interesting,” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner columnist Dermot Cole wrote this week. (No relation to the state geologist.)
No one was cited by the state for the May 2010 encounter.
The shooter — identified on the show as miner Mike Halstead — had the appropriate hunting license and non-resident black-bear tag, said Ryan Scott, area management biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game.
Still, the shooting raised concerns for the Department of Natural Resources, Cole wrote. Ordinarily, land-use permits make it clear that you can’t use a mining camp to support activities such as hunting or fishing — whether or not you have a tag to take an animal.
That stipulation wasn’t included in the permit awarded to the TV show miners, but it should have been, Cole wrote.
'ACT WITH MORE RESTRAINT’
The mining claim is about 35 or 40 miles north of Haines, Cole said in a phone interview.
In his letter, the geologist urged the miners to store food in a safer manner and to “act with more restraint in regard to wildlife.”
In response to questions about the bear encounter, a Discovery spokeswoman says the cable channel “relies on its production companies to ensure compliance with all permits and regulations.”
“We are aware that the necessary permit was obtained,” spokeswoman Katherine Nelson said in an e-mail.
Discovery didn’t answer other questions, such as why one of the miners had a big-game hunting license and a bear tag in the first place and whether the bear was shot to add drama to the TV show.
Nelson said she would try and connect a reporter with the production company, London-based Raw Television. The company could not be reached by phone or e-mail this week.
MOVEMENT IN THE BRUSH
The shooting marked the climax of the series’ second episode, titled “Gold, Guns and Bears.”
Viewers see the men walking the woods with guns after a “grizzly” is seen at camp.
“Todd (Hoffman) and the guys have been trying to secure a safety perimeter,” the narrator says.
Hoffman, a keg of man who anchors the show along with his father, Jack, is seen at one point carrying an AR-15 rifle.
The shooting comes near the end of the show. A black bear has emerged from the trees “just feet from Mike Halstead,” the narrator says. The bear’s distance from Halstead is unclear based on the footage.
Viewers catch glimpses of movement in the brush. They hear the sound of a gunshot.
Cut to Halstead, who is holding a rifle and giving a thumbs up. He says something about “100 yards.”
The episode ended on a hopeful note.
“The team has made the camp secure,” the narrator concluded as the credits rolled. “Found a promising spot to start mining and is getting a taste of the Alaskan wildlife.”
In the final scene, the miners gather around the campfire, apparently eating bear burritos.
The series finale, titled “Never Say Die,” was scheduled to air tonight, promising more drama and danger.
“Rain and thawing snow flood the mine and Jack puts his life on the line as the glory hole caves in around the massive 100,000 pound excavator,” says the Discovery Channel synopsis.
Cole said he doesn’t know if the show plans to return to the mining claim to film again this year. No application has been submitted to the Department of Natural Resources, he said.
Meantime, Discovery is advertising a “special episode” of the show called “Full Disclosure” on its website.
“This special episode reveals what went wrong and how the guys plan to hit the mother lode next season,” it says.
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