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Wounded Hillside grizzly a public threat?

Craig Medred
Aaron Jansen illustration

Look out Anchorage, there's a wounded grizzly somewhere on the Hillside. Alaska Department of Fish and Game area wildlife biologist Jesse Coltrane says she's not worried, but the Anchorage Daily News reports plenty of others are.

What does Coltrane know anyway? A wounded bear is something to be scared of if you know about it. Of course, people usually don't know about it, because the wounded bears roaming the Hillside are most often wounded by other bears. Scientists who study grizzly bears in Alaska say it is common to find animals sporting old wounds, sometimes from serious injuries. It's just that most people don't know about those injuries.

Big-game guides who handle a lot of dead bears echo this observation. Bears regularly injure each other in fights, but they are amazingly resilient animals. And there is no indication they hold a grudge against people for long. Sometimes dangerously defensive in the immediate aftermath of a shooting, there is no evidence a wounded bear is anymore dangerous to humans than any other bear once a little time passes.

A grizzly bear shot in the face by a bird hunter in Montana just a couple weeks ago seemed somewhat oblivious to her injuries not long after. The Montana Standard reported that the injured bear and her cub were discovered feeding on a road-killed deer near Ferndale. Wildlife authorities wanting to relocate the bears managed to approach the duo and dart the bear with a tranquilizer gun without major incident. Only after that did they discover the sow was badly injured. They subsequently took the bear to a veterinarian for surgery, and then released both sow and cub back into the wild. The sow now has only one eye, but wildlife authorities in Montana do not seem to have any fears she is going to try to get even with humans for that.

It could be Coltrane knows something of which she speaks when she says the wounded Anchorage grizzly is at this point no more dangerous than any other Anchorage grizzly. And there are about three dozen of the animals that range in and out of Anchorage. They are not all on the Hillside at once, but on any given day there might be several roaming the Hillside. State wildlife officials say people there should be always bear aware, but there is no need to panic.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com