KODIAK -- Chicken feathers were flying late Saturday night as Doug Pedersen took careful aim and with one shot brought down an 8-foot Kodiak bear raiding a chicken coop on Otmeloi Way.
"It just killed him stone dead," Pedersen said.
The bear is one of several that have been spotted roaming urban Kodiak since Oct. 1, rummaging through garbage dumpsters in one last eating binge before hibernation.
On Monday, two days after Pedersen's shot, Kodiak College issued a warning to students about bears on campus, and hikers at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park reported spotting a bear on the beach.
Bear sightings are frequent in Kodiak, and especially in autumn, but Pedersen's incident is the first violent encounter between humans and bears during what has been an especially bear-ish fall.
The Kodiak Police Department has fielded dozens of bear sighting calls, and police chief T.C. Kamai said the department even had to resupply its stock of rubber bullets and flashbang hand grenades, something it doesn't normally do. Those two items are commonly used in Alaska to haze bears, scaring them away from human-populated areas.
"We're still getting (bear calls)," Kamai said, "but the number seems to be decreasing."
Larry Van Daele, the top Alaska Department of Fish and Game bear biologist in Kodiak, said this year's encounters seem to be taking place in urban Kodiak instead of Bell's Flats, which means more phone calls.
Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Fish and Game, Kodiak police, Alaska Waste and others have coordinated Kodiak's bear response this fall, and Van Daele said that as long as people continue to keep their garbage locked up and away from bears, the problem will subside.
That can't help the bear Pedersen killed, his first in almost 25 years.
About 10 p.m. Saturday, Pedersen said he heard noises outside and his dogs "were going nuts."
He had a large big-game rifle that had gone unused for more than 20 years, rummaged around for shells and taped a high-intensity flashlight to its barrel.
The light illuminated a nearby tree and the bear leaning against it, attempting to reach chickens perched in its branches.
The bear had smashed through a gate and forced the chickens to flee as best they could. "They don't nothing to do with people, normally," Pedersen said. "They just want something to eat, like a dog."
Pedersen shouted, shining the flashlight directly into the bear's eyes. When the bear kept trying to reach the chickens, Pedersen fired. The shot entered the bear's mouth and killed it instantly.
Pedersen, who grew up in Chignik, remembers going on bear hunts with his father, who was a guide. "My dad, every spring or fall, he would get five or six bear a year," he said.
More often than not, Pedersen was drafted to carry back the resulting meat.
Pedersen said he's had a few close encounters with bears since those days, but it's not something he looks for. "I try never to get near them because they're just unpredictable," he said. "They're kind of scary when you're up right close to them."
Saturday's shooting has been classified as a "defense of life and property" incident, and the bear hide has been surrendered to the state.
By JAMES BROOKS
Kodiak Daily Mirror