Alaska News

Brown bear seriously injured in 'hazing' attempt in Southeast Alaska

A young adult brown bear was seriously injured Saturday evening when a Skagway Police Department officer shot it with a lethal slug.

Authorities haven't been able to verify that the bear has died, but search efforts have also offered no further signs of the animal.

An officer was preparing to "haze" the bear after campers at the Dyea Campground in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park tried to scare it off using a car horn, shouts and other noises, according to a press release from the park.

Hazing a bear involves creating a "negative experience for a bear that seeks out human food or loses its natural avoidance of humans and developed areas," the release said.

That involves using non-lethal rubber shotgun slugs, or rubber rounds and noise-deterrent rounds in sequence to scare bears away, according to the release.

"When performed correctly, non-lethal rounds rarely damage the animal and are designed to inflict minimal momentary pain," wrote Ben Hayes, chief of interpretation and education at the park, in the release. "While preparing his duty shotgun for non-lethal hazing, the officer inadvertently loaded a lethal slug into the chamber and it struck the bear in the hind section."

The release did not identify the officer or mention whether he might be disciplined for the incident, and no one at SPD was available to answer questions Monday afternoon.


"The National Park Service and Skagway Police Department regret this unfortunate outcome for the bear and the increased risk to public safety," the release said. "The two agencies have reviewed the incident and the officer actions and are working collaboratively to review bear management policies and training strategies to ensure that response personnel are well-trained and working together to protect park wildlife and the visiting public."

The bear ran away from the campground after it was shot. It was seen walking with "great difficulty" and was last tracked entering the Taiya River downstream from an island as it became dark. It is thought to have "succumbed to the river current," but might still be alive.

"Subsequent search efforts along the river bank have indicated no further sign of the injured bear," the release said, "but authorities have not been able to verify that the bear has died from its wounds."

The National Park Service encourages people in the area to call 911 or contact a ranger if they see a bear that is limping or having difficulty walking or running.

SPD officers and park service rangers will maintain increased presence in the Dyea area in the coming days, the release said.

Annie Zak

Annie Zak was a business reporter for the ADN between 2015 and 2019.