Sitka golf course groundskeeper tries to poison bears but kills 2 dogs, troopers say

Benjamin S. Brasch

A groundskeeper at the Sitka golf course is accused of trying to poison a brown bear that had been tearing up the course by leaving out food laced with antifreeze that killed two dogs, according to a Alaska State Troopers.

Troopers received a report on Oct. 15 that two dogs had died from antifreeze poisoning, and the next day they received a report that Kevin Taranoff, 31, of Sitka, placed laced food near the restaurant at the nine-hole Sea Mountain Golf Course, according an account posted online by state wildlife trooper Jake Abbott.

Taranoff was issued a summons Wednesday to appear in District Court in Sitka on a misdemeanor charge of attempting to take brown bear by use of poison, according to troopers.

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said Taranoff set out the poisoned food without the permission or knowledge of any golf course management..

Taranoff had been working with Alaska Department of Fish & Game to rid the course of the bear, said Phil Mooney, the agency's Sitka area biologist.

The bear, about 4 years old, has ripped up ball cups, broken the hole flags and rummaged through trash on the property in the past, he said.

Mooney said he set up a trap on the property about 3 weeks ago but was unsuccessful.

"He became frustrated and put out poison," Mooney said of Taranoff.

According to troopers, both pet owners brought in their dogs, Jango, a 3-year-old German shepherd, and Tank, 1-year-old black Labrador retriever, to Pet's Choice Veterinary Hospital when they realized something was wrong with their dogs.

Victoria Vosburg, owner of the pet hospital, said the owners brought in their dogs independent of each other around noon on Oct. 15 because both dogs were vomiting.

She said the antifreeze shut down both dogs' kidneys less than a day after they ate the poisoned food.

A few licks of antifreeze can kill a small dog, she said.

Mooney said he isn't sure if the same amount of antifreeze would have killed the bear because a bear's digestion is so inefficient that it may not have absorbed the poison.

He said Sitka normally has five to 20 brown bears during summer.

Bears like to spend time near the elevated berry patch in the middle of the gold course, which was particularly rich with berries this summer, he said.

Mooney warned that there is still one bear spending time near the golf course and about three more around town.

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