Bear shot after it smashes SUV window and climbs inside at Anchorage trailhead

When Jackie Keating parked at the Glen Alps Trailhead above Anchorage for an early morning run up Flattop Mountain, she quickly realized she wasn't alone.

It was about 5:15 a.m. Friday. Keating was planning to hike the popular trail overlooking the city with her husky, a retired sled dog named Angelina Jolie. Then she spotted the black bear.

A sociologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Keating grew up in upstate New York and spent four summers working in Kodiak. She knows bears and knew to stay away. (The morning ended badly for the bear. More on that in a moment.)

[On a sunny afternoon, a cinnamon-colored black bear sprinted through downtown Anchorage]

"It's a good idea to always maintain a safe distance and watch their behavior for signs that they might be stressed," Keating said later. She retreated to the far end of the parking lot and used a long lens on her Canon to document what happened next:

The bear, which Chugach State Park officials said looked to be about 3 years old, approached a parked Subaru Forester with Colorado plates.

"It was parked in the middle (of the lot), off by itself," Keating said. Nobody was in it. The bear inspected, scrabbling across the hood.


"It was kind of sniffing around the car and got up on (its) hind legs and was peering into the window," Keating said.

"It jumped up on the roof from the hood of the car," she said.

"I'm pretty sure (the bear) had hopped back down and was kind of pressing in on the window when it shattered," Keating said. Her zoom lens captured the glass spraying like confetti.

The windows on the Subaru were open an inch or two, which might have allowed the bear some leverage, she said.  "He knew what he was doing, how to navigate that whole situation."

The bear leisurely climbed inside. Twice.

"The first time he got in, he grabbed like a sandwich or something and hopped out and ate it," she said.

"(The bear) was kind of like having a picnic on the concrete eating this food," Keating said.

"The second time he jumped in he stayed in there for a while, like five or 10 minutes," she said.

Keating left a note for the area park ranger and, after watching the bear run off in a direction opposite the trail, climbed Flattop as planned.

She took her husky, bells jingling, and bear spray with her.

Later in the morning, at about 8:30, Chief Chugach State Park Ranger Ben Corwin was on patrol when he arrived in the parking lot to find all the cars parked on one side and hikers standing in a wide arc. Everyone had their cellphones out.

Corwin watched as a black bear ran from behind a lonely Subaru. The animal carried a picnic cooler in its mouth.

Earlier this season, park officials heard reports of a black bear sniffing around vehicles and sometimes climbing into the beds of pickups at the Glen Alps Trailhead. Corwin figured he was looking at the culprit.

"If a bear has gone from searching for easy handouts to physically breaking into vehicles and pulling food out, that's a pretty extreme public safety hazard," the ranger said.

Corwin phoned Fish and Game and was told that if he could safely kill the bear, he should. The animal retreated to the alders. When Corwin approached, it slapped the ground.

The ranger shot the bear and confirmed it was dead. It was female. He lent gloves to a group of men who had watched the encounter and volunteered to load the carcass into Corwin's pickup for delivery to Fish and Game.

Chugach State Park Superintendent Kurt Hensel said he does not know of any other bears that rangers or Fish and Game have had to kill at the busy trailhead. But people sometimes leave trash in the area, serving as an attractant for wild animals.


Hikers are urged to pack out everything they bring to the trail, he said. "This is why we don't have dumpsters at Glen Alps."

The bear knew what it was looking for, Hensel said, "and was not afraid of people like (it) needs to be."

"Bears feeding on trash, it usually isn't a good outcome," he said.

Keating, the hiker who snapped these photos, warned photographers to keep their distance and to check out Fish and Game's bear safety tips.

"I took all these photos half a parking lot away from inside my car. Bears are wild. … We should never be actively approaching them for a photo opportunity," Keating said.


[How to use bear spray effectively]

Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Keating worked in Kodiak for one year, rather than four summers. 

Kyle Hopkins

Kyle Hopkins is special projects editor of the Anchorage Daily News. He was the lead reporter on the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Lawless" project and is part of an ongoing collaboration between the ADN and ProPublica's Local Reporting Network. He joined the ADN in 2004 and was also an editor and investigative reporter at KTUU-TV. Email khopkins@adn.com