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Brown bear sighting reported in area of search for wounded bruin

Casey Grove,Michelle Theriault Boots
Jessy Coltrane, a biologist from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, tracks a wounded bear on the Anchorage Hillside on Wednesday morning.
Marc Lester
Jessy Coltrane and Dave Battle, biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, are tracking a wounded bear on the Anchorage Hillside on Wednesday morning.
Casey Grove
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists Dave Battle, left, and Jessy Coltrane cross DeArmoun Road Wednesday morning. They followed bear tracks through Anchorage Hillside neighborhoods on Wednesday, October 24, 2012. The biologists trying to track a bear they believed was the same one that was shot by a homeowner protecting his chicken coop.
Marc Lester
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Jessy Coltrane followed bear tracks through Anchorage Hillside neighborhoods on Wednesday, October 24, 2012. The biologists were trying to track a bear they believed was the same one that was shot by a homeowner protecting his chicken coop.
Marc Lester
Dave Battle and Jessy Coltrane, biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, track a wounded bear near Tracy Drive on Wednesday morning.
Marc Lester

Update: Anchorage police report a brown bear was seen early Thursday morning in the area of Rabbit Creek Road and Clarks Road, just north of Bear Valley Elementary, and just to the northeast in the area of 140th Avenue and Rabbit Creek.

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Earlier story:

A wounded grizzly bear shot by a homeowner protecting his chicken coop on the Anchorage Hillside early Wednesday eluded biologists tracking a trail of blood drops and paw prints, and had not been found as of nightfall.

The bear would be killed when found because of its history of trying to get into buildings and food sources, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said.

But it has so far seemed skittish around humans, said Fish and Game biologist Dave Battle.

"It's very skittish," Battle said. "On the one hand, that's a good thing, because it hasn't shown any major aggression toward people. We were already looking for it, to remove it, to kill it, because it's breaking into things. But as soon as someone sees it or makes a sound, it's out of there."

Biologists began looking for the animal at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, lost the trail midday, and planned to go out after dark to continue to search, said Jessy Coltrane, Fish and Game's Anchorage area biologist. .

The incident in a neighborhood densely populated by Hillside standards prompted police to warn residents.

In a message posted Wednesday morning on Twitter, police officials said, "Caution advised Hillside & DeArmoun area wounded brown bear in the area. Concern for children en route school and joggers/walkers."

Biologists believe the brown bear is the same troublesome bruin trying to get inside other homes, garages and outbuildings on the Hillside looking for food in recent weeks. It's likely also the same bear that raided a second chicken coop about a mile away from the first one Wednesday morning, said Coltrane.

The second coop was on Tracy Way, near the intersection of Hillside Drive and DeArmoun Road.

"Right now, I don't know if it's the same bear, but if I had a bunch of money, I'd bet it was," Coltrane said Wednesday while she and Battle tracked the animal. "And I don't think it's wounded very badly."

The bear was first spotted early Wednesday morning, when a homeowner on Beverly Drive, off Birch Road between Huffman and DeArmoun roads, called police just after 2 a.m. The man shot at the bear twice with a shotgun, police said. Judging by the minimal amount of blood found later, the shots likely grazed the bear, Battle said.

"He went out, and it was in his chicken coop. I don't think it charged him before he shot," Battle said. "After he shot the first time, it started spinning, and it ran out past him. Basically, because of the configuration of the coop and the buildings ... it kind of had to run past him. And he shot it again as it was running past him. It hit the ground, jumped right back up and left."

Police officers and two police dogs were the first to arrive and followed blood and paw prints south and east until losing the trail.

Coltrane said she and Battle searched from about 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. without finding the bear.

"There was pretty good blood at first, then it started to clot and was down to a pinprick," Battle said. "It traveled far enough (for us) to know it was not hit in the heart or lung area. If it had, it would've dropped on the trail. The best thing to do in that situaion is to back off."

At about 9 a.m., a homeowner about a mile east on Tracy Way, said he'd found a door to his barn broken and windows to a chicken coop inside also busted open, Coltrane said.

The biologists followed the bear's trail from Beverly Drive along two or three other roads, then south along a power line trail and across DeArmoun Road to Gunnison Drive. That's where they lost it again.

Still, the bear appeared to have been heading in the direction of the Tracy Way chickens, Coltrane said. Battle and Coltrane followed paw prints -- the bleeding had apparently stopped -- from the second coop for a short way but again lost the trail about 1 p.m.

Neither chicken coop was protected by an electric fence, something the biologists strongly recommend, Coltrane and Battle said.

"That's a common theme among chicken coop owners up here," Battle said. "We're really trying to get them to put up appropriate electric fences."

At least one elementary school principal in the area made an announcement warning students to be cautious of the bear Wednesday afternoon.

Police asked people in the neighborhood to take common sense precautions like not allowing children to play unsupervised or walk to school alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Contact Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com and Michelle Therialt Boots at mtheriault@adn.com

 


By CASEY GROVE and MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
Anchorage Daily News / adn.com