Anchorage police kill garbage-eating bear

Michelle Theriault Boots

Officers shot a black bear sow that had been getting into garbage in the neighborhood adjacent to Baxter Bog Tuesday night, according to the Anchorage Police Department. A biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says the sow's three cubs, believed to be in the area, will also have to be killed and that the incident was caused by unsecured garbage, a chronic problem in the area.

This sow's death is "absolutely, very much, completely, 100 percent" linked to poorly secured garbage, said Fish and Game wildlife biologist Jessy Coltrane on Wednesday.

The incident started at 8:44 p.m. Tuesday night when police received a report that residents in the 3400 block of Rosella Street, just west of Baxter Bog, were trying to chase off a bear that had been eating garbage in the neighborhood for days, said Anchorage Police Department spokesman Lt. Dave Parker. Around 11 p.m. officers returned after hearing a report of a homeowner in the same neighborhood shooting a black bear, he said.

The homeowner, according to a police report, saw the bear in his driveway and came outside with a shotgun, wearing a bathrobe. The bear charged, according to police, and the homeowner fired buckshot at it, likely missing it but damaging a rock retaining wall at his house.

Officers later found the bear in a nearby cul-de-sac. It showed no fear of humans, Parker said. Officers followed it in to the backyard of a home in the 3200 block of Rosella and shot it three times as it began to climb on a stack of wood, according to the police report. The bear was shot based on the report of it charging at a homeowner, neighbors' problems with it and its habituation to people, Parker said.

Despite some confusion about whether the bear shot was the same one that the homeowner had fired at earlier, officers believe it was the same animal -- a nursing sow, he said. The sow's three cubs, believed to be born this year, will now have to be put down when they are found, Coltrane said.

"We don't have placement right now for black bear cubs," she said.

The bear and its three cubs had been seen in the neighborhood for at least two weeks, said neighbor Josiah Wynn.

That's not unusual, said Coltrane. A black bear or two hang around the Baxter Box area every summer, she said. While the area is marginal habitat, bears are drawn by what she described as a buffet of unsecured garbage in densely-populated neighborhoods.

"That is the only thing keeping bears in the area," she said. "There is not enough food to sustain a bear at Baxter Bog."

Some residents in the Baxter Bog area are served by Alaska Waste, Coltrane said, and use bear-safe curbside garbage cans. Other areas served by Solid Waste Services don't use bear-proof curbside cans, Coltrane said. By law, trash can't be put out on the street until the pickup day. But that doesn't always happen. Neighbor Carolynn Greene said that she's seen neighbors who lack garages using a bungee-cord system to try to protect their regular curbside bins against bears.

Coltrane said that while the police did the right thing in killing a bear that was unafraid of humans and brazenly eating neighborhood garbage, the incident is another example of preventable bear death due to chronic carelessness with trash.

"It's an ugly thing to have to kill four bears," she said.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.

Anchorage Daily News