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Wildlife

Big black bear killed after it got stuck in Juneau home’s entryway

  • Author: Devin Kelly
  • Updated: July 27, 2017
  • Published July 27, 2017

A nearly 500-pound black bear got trapped in the entryway of a mobile home in Juneau on Tuesday and terrified the owner before wildlife biologists killed it.

Leoni Johnson told the Juneau Empire her two dogs started "going nuts" about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday at her home in a trailer park north of downtown Juneau. She heard crashing sounds in the arctic entryway.

When Johnson opened the front door, she came face to face with the massive male bear, she told the newspaper. After calling police, Johnson forced her way out through a side door, injuring her wrist and ankle, the newspaper reported.

By the time biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game showed up at the mobile home, the bear had ripped a basketball-sized hole in the wall at the back of the entryway.

Stephanie Sell, the area wildlife biologist, realized right away this was a bear she'd been chasing for years.

It's the largest black bear she's ever handled, she said, and it's notorious on social media, suspected of causing a string of serious property damage in recent years. That includes a break-in through a home's window and, most recently, the destruction of an arctic entryway at a different residence in the trailer park.

Most black bears weigh between 250 and 300 pounds. This one weighed about 470 pounds, according to Sell.

Outside Johnson's home, Sell could hear the bear trying to claw out of the front entryway.

She shot a dart through a slim opening in the other side of the structure. The dart hit the bear, and it crashed through the wall it had cleaved open.

The bear then wandered up to a part of the trailer park where old boats and equipment were stored, Sell said. At that point, biologists killed it.

"At that point, given the history of this bear and how destructive it's been," biologists couldn't justify relocating it, Sell said.

The body was so massive that biologists used a front-end loader, offered up by the trailer park's owners, to get it in the back of a truck.

While startling, the incident wasn't unusual in the Southeast Alaska city of about 33,000, where humans and bears coexist under sometimes-uneasy circumstances. Bears get stuck in buildings, including sheds and garages, with some regularity, Sell said.

A bear will claw its way into the structure and then the door will close behind it, Sell said.

The Switzer Village trailer park, located between the city's downtown and the Juneau airport, has had problems with bears for years, Sell said. It's a lower-income neighborhood and not everyone can afford bear-resistant containers for trash, she said.

Sell said she tried to trap the big bear several years ago after it broke in through a home's window. But the biologists caught five other bears instead — a sign of how many animals move through the area.

Sell said she hadn't confirmed what attracted the bear to Johnson's home, though she noted a freezer inside the entryway.

This year in Juneau, Sell said, bears have been especially attracted to unprotected chicken coops. She said she's been urging residents to install electric fences around coops as part of a constant education campaign on urban bears.

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