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Sitka-based trooper kills brown bear chasing his dog

  • Author: Chris Klint
  • Updated: June 15, 2017
  • Published June 15, 2017

An Alaska state trooper shot a brown bear to death Wednesday in Sitka as it attacked the man's dog outside his home. It is one of several Alaska bears that have been shot in defense of life or property this spring.

The bear, a young adult boar, was killed on Bahovec Court off Halibut Point Road shortly before 6 a.m., according to Steve Bethune with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He called the incident "just a case of bad timing."

Troopers Sgt. Eric Spitzer shot the bear, according to troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters. Spitzer, deputy commander of the Sitka-based Alaska Public Safety Training Academy, had just poured himself coffee at about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"In the morning he let his dog out, which is a very petite, 6-month-old blue heeler puppy — his daughters had named him Baloo, but they call him Blue," Peters said. "All of a sudden, he hears the barking of a bear and he hears the yip-yip-yip of a moving puppy."

While the bear chased Baloo around his home, Peters said, Spitzer stepped inside and got a gun.

"As the bear and the dog were coming around the house, he was able to fire on and kill the bear to save the little puppy," Peters said.

Bethune said Thursday the bear was shot four times. The dog suffered only scratches in the encounter. Bethune said it was a justifiable shooting under state law.

Alaska Public Safety Training Academy recruits retrieve a brown bear shot and killed Wednesday, June 14, 2017, by Alaska state trooper Sgt. Eric Spitzer. The bear had been chasing Spitzer’s dog, Baloo, at left. (From Stephen Bethune / ADFG)

Recruits from the academy, which trains law-enforcement officers from across the state, helped retrieve the 400-pound carcass.

"The bear actually ran about 100 yards behind the house into a deep ravine," Bethune said. "With 15 strong backs and a bit of effort, they were able to haul it out of the ravine."

Sitka's bear activity has been off to a relatively slow start this season, Bethune said, with calls only beginning to ramp up in the past week or so. The Bahovec Court home, however, is near large land parcels in what he called "a bear corridor area."

The bear's remains were brought to the academy, Peters said. Maj. Bernard Chastain, the Alaska Wildlife Troopers' deputy commander, then used it as "a training opportunity" to show recruits how to skin a bear and conduct a wildlife investigation in the field.

Anchorage-based Fish and Game officials said a black bear and a brown bear were fatally shot overnight Monday in Eagle River. On Wednesday, a sow brown bear with two cubs attacked and injured three of four hikers near the Eagle River Campground; responding police officers shot and wounded the bear.

After the Sitka bear's hide and skull were collected under state requirements in the shooting, its carcass was given to the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka. Bethune said the center commonly uses bear meat to feed birds in its care.