Homeowner fatally shoots brown bear sow and cub on Anchorage Hillside; 2nd cub injured

An Anchorage Hillside homeowner shot three brown bears Thursday morning, killing two and wounding one, a wildlife official said Friday.

The three bears — a sow plus two cubs that were likely 2 years old — had been getting into trash cans, mostly moving through the area in the middle of the night, according to Dave Battle, Anchorage area biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The homeowner, who lives in the area of O’Malley Road and Stony Brook Drive, shot and killed the sow and one cub while the other cub was injured and escaped, Battle said. Wildlife officials followed the wounded cub’s blood trail for roughly a quarter of a mile before they determined the cub was not going to die from the injury, he said.

Battle said he couldn’t provide specifics of the incident and that Alaska Wildlife Troopers are investigating.

“Alaska Wildlife Troopers are aware of multiple bears being shot on the hillside and are looking into the incident,” troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel wrote in an email. Troopers did not provide additional information about what happened.

The bear trio had become a problem and wildlife officials were planning to kill them eventually, according to Battle.

[A bear bite sliced open a Montana man’s arm on the Kenai Peninsula. His biggest worry was his missing dog.]

“Most of the brown bears that survive around Anchorage, they keep to themselves. They move in the middle of night, people never see them. They don’t start feeding from trash,” Battle said. “When brown bears start feeding from trash, we usually have to kill them.”

That’s because brown bears can be more dangerous and aggressive when defending a food source or cubs compared to black bears in the city.

“For the most part, it’s very rare for us to see real aggression from black bears, even the ones that sit there and eat your trash and act like they’re not afraid of you,” Battle said.

Black bears might slap the ground, act mean or chomp their jaws when protecting food or cubs, but he said it’s rare for them to make contact with a human. A brown bear trying to defend itself, its food or a cub, however, is much more likely to charge or attack.

“Whenever brown bears start going this route, we typically have to kill them,” Battle said.

Preventing human-bear interactions is a key reason why wildlife officials continue to urge residents to secure their trash and use bear-resistant garbage containers to keep bear attractants to a minimum.

“Even though for the most part, it’s a human-caused problem — you know, people have left out their bird seed or their trash ... and that’s started drawing them into houses, made them start checking out houses and causing a problem for everybody else — we still have to, for public safety reasons, remove those brown bears,” Battle said.

Every situation with bears is different, but safety basics tend to be the same, he said. If you’re in your driveway and a bear sees you and starts toward you, stand your ground and make yourself big. If you’re in a group, stand shoulder to shoulder so you look like a larger creature.

Most importantly, according to Battle: Don’t run away. It’s hard to keep people from running away, he said. It’s instinctual to turn around and run, but he said that’s the worst thing someone can do.

“If you are not close enough to your house to just take two steps and be back inside, then if the bear starts toward you, you stand your ground, you talk to it, you make yourself big,” Battle said. “You do the same things that you would do out on a trail.”

Morgan Krakow

Morgan Krakow is a general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She is a 2019 graduate of the University of Oregon and spent the summer of 2019 as a reporting intern on the general assignment desk of The Washington Post. Contact her at mkrakow@adn.com.