State wildlife officials say they had to kill three black bear cubs in East Anchorage on Thursday after police shot the cubs' mother two days earlier.
The sow bear raided trash cans in the neighborhood surrounding Baxter Bog, dragging food back to her three male cubs at the bog, said state biologist Jessy Coltrane. Some residents failed to secure their garbage, which was attracting the bears close to homes, after repeated warnings, Coltrane said.
"I mean, it's a postage stamp-sized bog," she said. "But what keeps a bear there is trash."
Police said neighborhood residents chased the sow Tuesday and one, a man in his bathrobe, fired a shotgun at it, missing the bear. Officers found it had no fear of humans and shot it three times in someone's backyard, a police spokesman said.
Suspecting early on that the sow would meet an untimely demise, Coltrane had checked to see if a zoo or other sanctuary could take the cubs. Unfortunately, Coltrane said, there was no one seeking black bears.
Bear cubs still dependant on their mother typically do not survive without her, and euthanasia is often the best option to prevent their suffering if they cannot be adopted, biologists say. Coltrane said she made the decision to ask an Alaska Wildlife Trooper to dispatch the cubs.
According to the troopers, the wildlife trooper shot the bear cubs Thursday morning. The neighborhood residents' carelessness with their trash -- an offense for which they could be fined -- was the direct cause of the bear cubs' death, the troopers said.
"I have been on several of these when we killed bears, and the people whose trash is out are like, 'Why are you killing it? It didn't do anything.' And it's like, "Really? Because you're responsible for this,' " Coltrane said.
"I don't want people to take that lightly," she said. "I want people to show responsibility and keep the bears out of their stuff."
That means not leaving garbage cans outside homes, even on the night before trash pick up, Coltrane said. Most Anchorage residents don't know that it's illegal to have trash cans in view of the street until the morning of pickup, she said. State laws provide for citations and fines for people leaving out anything that attracts bears, Coltrane said.
It's not easy making a decision to put down bear cubs, Coltrane said.
"It's the absolute worst part of my job," she said. "...This is truly the ugly side of what leaving your trash out does. Four bears are dead this week, including three little baby boy bears that did nothing wrong, really. They were victims of circumstance."
Reach Casey Grove at email@example.com or 257-4589.