The Kotlik Howler
Kotlik, with a population of 600, is the northernmost village in the Y-K Delta. It is one of the most rural villages in this region, situated along the southern shore of the Norton Sound. It’s name means “trousers” since the river system where it’s located looks like a pair of pants.
This summer, at the end of July 2013, a 70-year-old man and his 65-year-old wife had an experience with something they couldn’t understand. It happened at their fishcamp, a good distance from Kotlik.
One night, while sleeping, they were awakened by something bothering their cabin. It was making noise in the little porch of their cabin. “We thought it was a bear, so we didn’t bother checking it.” It was safer not to, in the middle of the night.
They hadn’t seen a bear in their camp but once about two years ago. At the time, their dog started barking fiercely toward the trees and the barking was scary to hear, the man said. “I grabbed my high-powered rifle and scanned the area from a high point in camp. Suddenly a brown bear stood up about 75 feet away.” He tried to chamber a round into his gun but it jammed. “Boy, lucky the bear did not come any closer to our camp. It had chased a cow moose and its calf to our area.” When his gun became unjammed he fired a couple rounds toward the animal as it fled.
The next night, the wife was awakened by the noise again. “You hear that?” she asked her husband. But he was sleeping. “Something was out there again, and this time it hit the house really hard and shook the cabin,” she told her husband the next morning.
After getting up and lighting the woodstove for heat and the Coleman stove for coffee, the man stepped outside and found nails and spikes all over the porch floor. “Whatever had slapped the cabin caused a coffee can full of the nails and spike to fall from a shelf in the porch and spill all over,” the man said.
He checked for tracks outside the porch, but the ground is very firm and nothing could make a track. “It couldn’t be moose. Moose don’t bother cabins or make noise like that,” he said.
That day, the man and wife called their daughter-in-law in Kotlik and reported they were bothered by something for two nights in a row. Before the day was over, one of their sons brought a dog to their camp to help guard the camp.
On the third night, the dog barked toward the smokehouse, “but not in a way they bark at bears,” the man said. Again, at 2:30 am, they were awakened again by barking. “When we looked out the window, the dog was barking toward the trees. It did that twice and trotted around the pole it was chained to.”
A couple days later, the fish were ready to take down. While putting away fish into buckets and carrying them down to the riverbank, the man heard a noise from “pavaken,” (the direction away from the river, or the trees). “It was a kind of holler, kind of far but close enough to be heard,” he said.
“Did you hear that?” He asked his wife, but she said no.
The animal hollered a second time. He thought it was the dog but when he glanced at it, the dog was lying down on the ground and sleeping. It was the first time he heard this kind of animal. It didn’t sound like any other he knew or heard.
“I’ve heard birds, fox, moose and everything else before but not this sound,” the man said.
It was a strange sound to hear. “Bigfoot-am aarpagacugnarqaaquk (I think a Bigfoot just hollered at us),” he said to his wife. After they were done putting away their fish, they went back to Kotlik.
A few days later they returned to fishcamp, to put things away until next summer when they would come back again to fish. Everything appeared to be in order and nothing seemed to have bothered their camp.