City sees seasonal rise in bear, moose run-ins

Casey Grove
Bill Roth

Summer means bear season in Anchorage, and black and brown bears are on the prowl again in Alaska's largest city.

And don't forget about the risk of running into a cow moose with a calf, biologists say.

In likely the most-visible wildlife incident recently, an Anchorage police officer had to euthanize a grizzly hit by an SUV on the Glenn Highway near Eagle River as rush hour picked up Thursday afternoon.

It happened about 3:30 p.m. when the driver of a Chevrolet Suburban was heading inbound to Anchorage on the Glenn, police spokeswoman Dani Myren said. The man saw the grizzly in the highway median near the weigh station just north of Anchorage proper, Myren said.

"He said it looked like the bear was trying to cross the outbound lanes," she said. "Then (it) turned and ran out in front of the driver's vehicle."

The Suburban hit the bear, severely injuring it, Myren said. Several people called police.

"It was trying to get off the median but attempting to go into outbound, rush-hour traffic. Sounds like the bear was pretty gravely injured," Myren said.

An officer arrived and shot the bear with a shotgun, she said. A Fish and Game biologist came to pick up the carcass, probably a 3-year-old that weighed roughly 350 pounds, said Jessy Coltrane, the state's Anchorage area biologist.

On average, about one grizzly per year dies on the highway, Coltrane said.

"A lot of the animals cross right there at the weigh station, because that's where the fence ends," she said. "Wolves die there. Moose die there. Everything dies there."

Coltrane said her office is receiving calls daily about problem bears in Muldoon, where she says higher-populated residential areas with unsecured trash bins are attracting them.

"There are numerous black bears and at least one brown bear that's working Muldoon," Coltrane said.

Myren said police have gotten multiple reports of a grizzly in the area, one that Fish and Game might have to put down if it continues getting into trash. It's unfortunate that uncovered garbage continues to be such a common problem in Anchorage, Coltrane said.

"(One) report indicates it was being very aggressive and not backing down and wandering off as a wild bear normally would," Myren said.

From May 30 to Friday, police responded to 16 bear sightings in various parts of the city, Myren said. The calls ranged from black bears munching on food left outside -- garbage, in most cases, but also the lunches of dozens of kids attending a camp in the university area -- to grizzlies breaking into garages or walking toward people on a bike path, Myren said.

At about 4 p.m. Friday, officers reported a "mob of people" following and recording video of a grizzly in East Anchorage, Myren said.

Coltrane often warns seasoned Alaskans and tourists alike not to linger near bears to take pictures or video. Moose, while generally more docile and photo-friendly, are also dangerous, more so in early summer, she said.

"This time of year, a cow moose with a calf is probably the most dangerous thing out there," Coltrane said.

Moose that have recently given birth are generally more agitated and will attack pretty much anything to protect their newborn calves, Coltrane said. The huge animals can charge, kick or stomp a person who gets too close.

Coltrane said she is also trying to dispel at least one bear-and-moose-related rumor this week: that a grizzly killed a cow moose on a Kincaid Park mountain biking trail.

Untrue, said Coltrane, who inspected the moose's rancid remains Friday. The moose likely died from pregnancy-related complications, as it had an unborn calf's leg protruding from it, Coltrane said. The moose died weeks ago, and though piles of black bear scat indicated bears fed on the carcass, it appeared to have been too rotten even for them, she said.

"The bears weren't really that interested in eating it," Coltrane said. "Discriminating bears, maybe."

Mountain bikers should be concerned about moose on the trails, though, Coltrane said. At Kincaid, staying off the narrower single-track trails for now would be a smart move, she said: It's safer to ride on a wider trail until about the end of June.

"We don't want people to get hurt, and there's lots of other trails to use," she said.

More information on bears, moose and how a human can avoid a bad interaction with them is available online from the Department of Fish and Game.


Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.



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