Reminder To Cook Bear Meat Thoroughly

Alaska DFG, Bear Hunting Magazine

A reminder to all bear hunters:
Trichinosis is easy to avoid; just make sure wild game is internally cooked to at least 160 degrees at the thickest part of the meat. Cooking the meat to this temperature kills the parasite.

A 32 year-old man from Alaska shared his story to remind others that bear meat needs to be cooked thoroughly before eating. Earlier this summer the man was at his remote cabin east of McGrath where he found a bear breaking in. He shot the bear, reported it to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and then he and a friend skinned the bruin and stored the meat in freezer bags in the river to keep it cold.

For dinner he cooked some of the meat in a skillet with butter, pepper and garlic salt. The black bear meat tasted delicious and he said it was the best steak he had ever had. The problem was, he cooked it to about medium rare and that ended up giving him trichinosis.

This mistake in cooking became clear six weeks later, when he started noticing soreness in his legs and back. Then came an upset stomach, flu-like symptoms and a high fever. He became sensitive to sound and his eyes hurt. After this, his wife found him in the bathtub in the middle of the night in the midst of a fever hallucination.

At this point, he was taken to the hospital were doctors first thought he might have meningitis. But, then they started a line of questioning that included if he had ate any bear meat recently. Once this was confirmed, the trichinosis diagnosis was soon to come.

The disease, mainly associated with pork, can cause a range of symptoms from aching joints to swelling of the face and eyes and in serious cases can be fatal. 10,000 cases of trichinosis are reported on average each year; in the United States, the number is less than 20 (down significantly from around 400 back in the 1920s). While cases from eating domesticated animals have decreased, the number of people who get it from wild game has remained relatively steady, and Alaska contributes a disproportionate number to this statistic as many residents eat a lot of wild meat.

While the 32 year-old has now almost fully recovered, he credits his overall good health with helping him recover from what doctors told him was a severe infection. The bear's hide is being tanned and he plans to hang it on his wall.

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