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Park grizzly suspected in attack on jogger killed

Craig Medred
A woman runner was mauled by a brown bear on Rover's Run in Far North Bicentennial Park on Friday August 8, 2008. The woman is in serious condition. APD officers Shaun Henry, Kevin Armstrong and Pablo Paiz return from the trail after unsuccessfully searching for the bears after the mauling.
A woman runner was mauled by a brown bear on Rover's Run in Far North Bicentennial Park on Friday August 8, 2008. The woman is in serious condition. A caution sign near the Buckner Bridge in the park. 080807
A woman runner was mauled by a brown bear on Rover's Run in Far North Bicentennial Park on Friday August 8, 2008. The woman is in serious condition. A bear warning sign at the start of the Rover's Run Trail in the park. 080807

The grizzly that mauled Anchorage resident Clivia Feliz in Far North Bicentennial Park on Aug. 8 is believed to be dead, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials.

The sow was shot over the carcass of a trophy bull moose in Anchorage's Stuckagain Heights neighborhood Tuesday morning around 9:30, said agency spokesman Bruce Bartley.

Her two cubs provided the identification. Remote cameras placed along Rover's Run Trail -- where the 51-year-old Felix was attacked and other park users chased -- captured photos of a cub with a distinctive, white collar of fur.

Such collars are common on very young grizzly cubs, and the unique nature of this one made it possible to identify the cub as one of a pair frequenting Rover's Run with their mother.

On Monday, Bartley said, a team of biologists and others from Fish and Game spent a lot of time outside a Stuckagain home watching a cub with a similar neck collar. In the end, he said, there was agreement that the cub on a moose kill with its mother in the yard was one of the cubs thought to have been along Rover's when Feliz was attacked.

That settled the fate of the sow.

Efforts are now under way to capture the small, dog-size cubs. The plan is to dart them with a tranquilizer and then take them to a zoo. A couple zoos in the Midwest have expressed interest, Bartley said, though grizzly cubs are generally hard to place.

The species is common. Zoos can get grizzlies easily and thus seldom have room to take animals from the wild. Bartley said Fish and Game biologists plan to give the cub capture effort about a week.

If they haven't caught the cubs by then, he said, the young animals will likely have starved to death or been killed by another bear. Infanticide is the norm in the world of grizzly bears, and the area the two cubs now inhabit is full of other bears.

Genetic fingerprinting of bear hair done by Fish and Game biologist Sean Farley has put more than two dozen grizzlies in the woods surrounding Campbell Creek every summer.

The bears live largely out of sight in the lush vegetation bordering the creek in a huge park teetering between the urban rush of Anchorage and the wilderness quiet of the half-million acre Chugach State Park. Over the years, the bears have tried hard to stay invisible. There are usually only occasional sightings.

This year, however, that all changed. First came an attack on Petra Davis, a 15-year-old mountain biker competing in a 24-hour endurance race. She was badly mauled near the east end of the Rover's Run Trail early in the summer. Feliz was attacked near the west end of the same trail in August. And in between, a number of people were chased on Rover's or nearby trails.

There is no way to tell if the bear killed Tuesday was involved in the attack on Davis. No one even knows if that bear had cubs. Thus the bear that attacked the young cyclist could have been any of the couple dozen bears that come to the area along the creek in the summer to look for fish.

Biologists are largely certain, however, that they got the bear that put Feliz in the hospital, even though the sow and her cubs had moved away from the creek.

With the king salmon run petering out and the silver salmon yet to arrive in force, the sow apparently slipped into Stuckagain to look for other feeding opportunities.

Just prior to being shot, she found fresh meat in the form of a mature bull moose. Bartley described it as a big, healthy animal with antlers measuring more than 50 inches, the sort of moose that would be considered a trophy.

How it died remains a mystery.

"The neighbors saw it die,'' Bartley said, but the bears were not there at the time.

Whether the moose was suffering from earlier injuries from a bear attack - or maybe even from being hit by a car - is unknown. What is known is that the family of bears showed up to feed on the animal's carcass after it expired.

"It was in somebody's yard,'' Bartley said.

The homeowner called Fish and Game. The agency set up a watch on the carcass.

"We were up there (Monday) night, but we couldn't get a shot,'' Bartley said. The opportunity for a quick, clean, killing shot didn't come until Tuesday morning. The sow was then dispatched and removed. Bartley said biologists didn't think they needed to leave the carcass to bring the cubs back.

"There's plenty of (sow) scent plus moose scent,'' he said Tuesday night. "We're trying to dart them now.''

Biologists want to avoid killing the cubs and further inflaming public passions. They've been under fire from almost everyone since the attack on Davis.

Some people want all the bears in and around Anchorage killed. Others think people should be prohibited from using wild lands frequented by bears. Bartley said Fish and Game biologists feel caught in the middle of teeter-tottering public opinion.

"I'd say it's 51-49,'' he said, "and I don't know which way the 51 is.''

Ultimate public reaction, he added, is "likely to depend on what happens to the cubs.''

Saving them and shipping them south to a zoo might take some of the sting out of killing the sow.

Find Craig Medred online at adn.com/contact/cmedred or call 257-4588.

Interactive map: Tracking bears in Anchorage
Photos: Urban bears
More bear attack stories
By CRAIG MEDRED
cmedred@adn.com