Story last updated at 4:54 p.m. Thursday, October 17, 2002

It's a bird, it's a plane <> no, it's a bird
Villagers in Togiak and Monokotak have reported sightings of an unusually large raptor-type bird cruising the Southwestern Alaska skies recently. The bird is said to have the wingspan of a Cessna 207.

Moses Coupchiak from Togiak noticed the bird from about two miles away.

"At first I thought it was one of those old-time Otter planes," he said. "Instead of continuing toward me, it banked to the left, and that's when I noticed it wasn't a plane."

Scientists are not quite sure what to make of the reports. Federal raptor specialist Phil Schemf in Juneau said the sightings were probably of a Steller sea eagle, known to have a wingspan of up to 8 feet.

"I'm certainly not aware of anything with a 14-foot wingspan that's been alive for the last 100,000 years," he said.

But reports of the plane-sized bird continue to pour in.

Pilot and owner of Bristol Bay Air Service John Bouker was also skeptical of a bird three times the size of a bald eagle. But a sighting during a trip into Manokotak changed that.

"He's huge, he's huge, he's really, really big. You wouldn't want to have your children out." he said.

--Anchorage Daily News

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