Alaska News

Uninvited black bear temporarily closes Alaska Zoo in Anchorage

An uninvited wild black bear at the Alaska Zoo caused a closure until early afternoon Wednesday, when it decided to leave on its own accord.

Zoogoers were turned away at the main entrance while the wild bear was inside.

"Well, the bear -- we're not sure of gender -- is up in a tree in the back of the zoo by the tigers," Director of Development Jill Myer said, standing in front of bright yellow handwritten signs at the zoo's entrance that explained the closure and the fact the loose bear did not belong to the zoo.

At around 6 a.m., the night groundskeeper noticed the wild black bear, which appeared to be about 2 years old based on its size. Myer said zoo staff suspect the bear was recently pushed away from its sow to be on its own.

By noon, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game had been notified and were assessing the situation, spokesperson Ken Marsh said.

According to Myer, all of the zoo's animals were brought into their dens -- including the tigers and the nearby resident wolves.

"The tigers were very excited about the new resident. They were actually put into their nighttime dens. And the wolves were very curious," Myer said with a laugh. "A couple of the wolves were like 'no' and it took a while to get them in."

Myer said biologists and zoo staff decided to monitor the bear and keep the zoo closed until it left the same way it came inside -- on its own, which it did shortly after 1 p.m.

"The bear just came down the tree and was escorted out," Zoo Director Pat Lampi said. "We had staff, in teams, come from different directions, leaving it an open trail to a back gate where we had a person stationed in a truck so they could close the gate."

Myer said similar incidents have happened before.

"Many years ago we had a black bear that just kept coming back," Myer said. "So we made him a home here. And George the magpie, she flew here. We brought her to Bird TLC and everything, but it was clear she had spent a long time in captivity. So we kept her."

But Lampi is hoping this bear doesn't follow suit.

"Hopefully (it) learned a lesson and will stay wild," Lampi said.