Security guards and fellow-hunters out for a day's sport along with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin watched in helpless horror yesterday afternoon as a large polar bear (Ursus maritimus) suddenly emerged from the trees, gobbled up the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate in one bite, dashed back into the forest, and escaped before anyone could do anything about it.
And today, the whole of Alaska and half of the rest of the country is in shock.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Al Gore, have all firmly denied sicking the animal onto Mrs Palin in retaliation for her hunting proclivities, her opposition to 'endangered' status for polar bears, and her skepticism about the human origins of global warming.
'Bears are highly intelligent,' explained a Greenpeace spokesperson, 'and it seems that this one acted on his own initiative.'
Despite this setback, John McCain, determined to keep the momentum of the race for the White House, has placed the following advertisement in all major newspapers and TV stations and on the internet:
'WANTED. Glamorous, youngish, reactionary female to run for Vice President of the United States on Republican ticket. Must be a friend to wildlife (we don't want any more nasty accidents)', and volunteers at Republican headquarters are already busy sifting through the replies that are pouring in.
After three days, from a shortlist of 10, the candidate will be selected by means of a beauty contest in which each finalist must (1) model a bikini, an evening dress, and a power suit, (2) show that she can read and write, and (3) provide a few heartwarming family scandals that nobody really minds, but which can keep the party in the public eye and journalists and pundits gainfully occupied until November 4.
Meanwhile, a claim by one stunned witness to yesterday's tragedy, namely that the fleeing bear's stomach was heard crying shrilly, 'Endangered, my ass! You'll regret this, you fat frozen fuzzball!'
At first this was dismissed as the product of post-traumatic stress, but later the bear was witnessed taking a dump and he was seen to produced a worse-for-wear Palin. The steaming VP candidate then kicked the beast with her high-heeled boots, before making a run for it.
The bear is considering suing for damages.