Wildlife officials shot and killed a young male grizzly bear Wednesday on a wooded lot in a South Anchorage neighborhood.
Oceanview residents reported seeing the roughly 350-pound bear Tuesday walking down a street near the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, said state wildlife biologist Jessy Coltrane. The bear was seen again the next morning farther east where there are more homes, Coltrane said.
"It was being a relatively good bear," Coltrane said. "It wasn't getting into trash and was staying away from people."
Later in the day someone called to say the bear had killed a moose calf in their yard and dragged the carcass into thick woods on an undeveloped lot between Clipper Ship Drive and Mariner Drive, Coltrane said. She and fellow biologist Dave Battle drove to the area about 5 p.m. and met with Alaska Wildlife Trooper Bret Leford.
Because of its nearness to dozens of homes and the danger that the bear would linger and hurt someone, "safety trumped everything at that point," Coltrane said. Tranquilizing the bear with a dart wasn't a good option for a variety of reasons, she said, including that the darted bear still could've run closer to houses -- and it would have been more agitated with a dart stuck in it.
Having to shoot the fairly well-behaved bear was unfortunate, Coltrane said. In some situations, the biologists could scare the bear away and take whatever it was feeding on, she said. But the time of day and the bear's proximity to people were working against it.
"Its only fault was killing a moose calf in a bad location," Coltrane said. "We were either going to run it into rush-hour traffic or into a residential area."
The 3- or 4-year-old bear was small, by grizzly standards, at 350 to 400 pounds but "still big enough I wasn't going to pull it out by myself," she said.
"We had to shoot several times, five or six rounds," Coltrane said. "And by the time we dragged the bear out, there were all kinds of people with cameras taking pictures."
About 20 people were watching and none of them helped the biologists and the trooper, who were struggling up an incline to get the dead bear into a pickup, Coltrane said. One man bent down to get a photo with the bear, she said.
"I said, 'Hey, knock it off. Inappropriate.' And he apologized."
It was the third grizzly reported killed recently in or near Anchorage. A homeowner off Rabbit Creek Road on the Hillside shot a grizzly Sunday after it killed a pet llama. Coltrane said up to four young bears were attracted to the area by unsecured garbage.
It's hard to say if the bear she shot Wednesday was one of the juveniles seen earlier in the Rabbit Creek area, Coltrane said. However, it was about the same size and bears often follow a route from Rabbit Creek to the Coastal Wildlife Refuge near Oceanview, she said.
"When we stopped getting calls in Rabbit Creek, we started getting calls in Oceanview," she said.
A brown bear along Turnagain Arm and near the busy Seward Highway was shot last month after several encounters with people, some trying to get pictures, and aggressive behavior.
The bear shooting Wednesday follows several sightings in recent days of smaller black bears in public places, including at two Anchorage hospitals, Providence Alaska Medical Center and Alaska Native Medical Center.
Just before a black bear caused a stir near the entrance to ANMC on Thursday, Marcus Byland had a closer-than-usual encounter while pushing his 18-month-old daughter, Jordyn, in a stroller. They were at University Lake, a popular dog park, and headed toward the hospital, Byland said.
"At first I thought it was a dog," he said. "It came up behind me and started smelling the backs of my ankles. I was wearing shorts and I could feel its breath on me."
Byland looked back and realized it was a bear but he didn't run because he figured he might spook it.
"I just slowly walked, held on to the stroller the whole time. It was like he was testing the stroller to see if we separated at all," he said. "That's what kept me from pulling out the camera and taking pictures all down the trail."
A black bear was seen at a parking garage at Providence on Monday. It was unclear if Byland and others at ANMC had seen the same bear.
Coltrane said she has no reason to think there are more or fewer bears in the Anchorage Bowl this summer. What the biologist is noticing are more reports of bears and seeing people crowding them to get pictures, she said.
"Everybody has a phone on them, so we get a call right away ... People are calling me when the bears are doing something very bear-like," Coltrane said. "We have to be smarter about how we deal with them and tolerate them, and when they cross the line, sometimes we have to shoot them."
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE
Anchorage Daily News