Mat-Su

Wildlife officials are searching for a bear raiding chicken coops near Butte

Wildlife officials are searching for a bear that has raided numerous chicken coops near Butte and Palmer over the past week.

The bear began appearing about a week ago near Butte and across the Matanuska River on the Inner and Outer Springer Loop roads, Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Tim Peltier said Friday.

Eight incidents have been reported to the department, but accounts of more encounters with the bear have circulated on social media, he said. Based on footprints and descriptions, Peltier said he believes it is a large brown bear.

Bears can become more active and brazen during the fall when they’re trying to pack on extra weight before hibernating, Peltier said. While chicken coops and other attractants, like food or trash, can sometimes draw bears close to homes, it’s extremely rare for the animals to repeatedly target chicken coops like this, he said.

“Normally they do it once and then they’re gone, and you never hear about it again,” he said.

Neighbors in the area have been on edge because of the bear, said Israel Hale, who lives near a coop that was attacked early Friday.

Hale said he received a call from his neighbor around 4 a.m. Friday because the bear had damaged their coop and killed his chickens. The man shot at the bear but was unable to see in the dark if it had been injured, Hale said. It ran off after the shots were fired.

Hale said he and his neighbor searched for the bear for several hours but were unable to find it.

Fish and Game officials and Alaska Wildlife Troopers also responded to the area that morning to look for the bear, but Peltier said they did not find it. He said he did not believe the animal had been injured.

The bear will likely be dispatched if it is located, Peltier said, because it is being destructive and coming near homes. Hale said he thinks the damage will continue until the bear is killed, and he’s concerned the animal could be a danger to people.

“It needs to go away before it kills someone,” he said.

Peltier recommended that people living in the area secure any animals, food or trash that could attract the bear. Officials are still on the lookout, he said, and he asked anyone who sees the bear to call the Department of Fish and Game office at 907-746-6300 or Wildlife Troopers at 907-352-5401.

“We would like to get more information not only on the whereabouts, but if we could get photos that would be great, or some good tracks so that we can identify the offending bear,” he said.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

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