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Soldotna officer kills bear in residential area

Soldotna Police Department photo

A police officer in Soldotna shot and killed a large brown bear in a busy residential area Thursday after the animal charged him, police said.

Police Chief John Lucking said Officer Victor Dillon spotted the bear crossing into a yard Thursday afternoon. Dillon thought it was likely an injured one that had been reported scavenging in the area for several days.

The officer went looking for the bear on foot, armed with a shotgun, the chief said in a written account distributed to news media Friday.

"The animal temporarily disappeared from sight near an outbuilding as the officer approached. Officer Dillon was stopped near a car parked in the driveway when he again observed the bear from a distance of about 25 yards. When the bear saw him, it charged straight on for a distance of about 14 yards at which time it quartered slightly away. Officer Dillon took that opportunity to step away from the parked vehicle and fire a single shot, dropping the animal."

The chief said the bear likely was attracted by a fresh caribou head within a few feet of where the bear was shot. Lucking says someone apparently had just butchered the caribou and the smell and head attracted the bear.

The bear was first noticed in Soldotna on Sunday "when it tore the lid off a chest freezer at a residence on South Fireweed." It was seen raiding garbage bins in town, and later charged two officers, police said. They weren't able to fire at the animal, though, "because of low visibility and nearby residences."

The animal was seen several more times around Soldotna after that, police said.

"It was unfortunate that the bear had to be destroyed, but the animal could easily have attacked someone and badly injured or killed them," the police chief said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reader photos: 2011 bear sightings

Anchorage Daily News/adn.com