Hillside grizzly still awake, raiding garbage

Casey Grove

At least one restless grizzly bear continues to roam the Anchorage Hillside, looking for an easy meal and surprising some residents who assumed bears are hibernating for the winter.

After sightings in the Upper DeArmoun Road area in recent weeks, one family had a close encounter early Wednesday when the bear raided a trash bag left outside their home on Jeanne Road, off Upper DeArmoun Road.

"It's just hungry," said Michael Mac Donald, who spotted the bear about 2 a.m. Wednesday. "It had our turkey carcass that was in the trash. It was looking for leftovers."

Mac Donald said he had seen the same bear while walking his family's dog, a yellow Labrador named Riley, about two weeks earlier. It was dark, the bear was on a hill, and Mac Donald did not see it until shining his headlamp at the hill.

"There's two eye shines coming back right at me," he said. "It rose on its hind legs and the eye shine went up, probably, a good three feet above me."

The bear growled. Mac Donald and Riley ran home. When they saw the bear again Wednesday, Mac Donald guessed it was 200 to 300 pounds.

There have been no recent reports of run-ins with bears, Anchorage-area biologist Jessy Coltrane said. But it's not unusual for bears to still be active, she said

Brown bears, often larger males, can sometimes go well into December or even January without hibernating, Coltrane said. If a bear has access to food -- often by getting into bird feeders or garbage left outside -- it will not feel the need to den, Coltrane said.

No matter what time of year it is, Anchorage residents are required to keep their garbage secured indoors until the morning trash collectors come to pick it up, Coltrane said.

"I think most people think it's cold outside, it's winter," Coltrane said. "And most bears are hibernating, so typically they don't have to worry about it as much, but usually there's one or two still knocking around."

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4343. Twitter updates: twitter.com/kcgrove.