Bear who mauled woman in city park escapes Alaska hunt

Anchorage Daily NewsAugust 11, 2008 

Alaska wildlife officials continued to search for a grizzly bear believed responsible for several attacks in Far North Bicentennial Park on Sunday as Anchorage city police shot and killed a black bear dining on garbage in a nearby neighborhood.

The grizzly, a sow with two cubs, is wanted because it mauled a runner Friday on the same trail a mountain biker was mauled earlier this summer. Wildlife officials think the bear is responsible for a number of charges and attacks in recent weeks, and they said they'll kill it if they can find it.

As for the black bear, its death warrant came when police decided it was too bold and too familiar with the neighborhood, Anchorage Police sergeant Rod Ryan said.

"We were yelling and clapping our hands, and he would not leave the area. He was not in fear," Ryan said. "We followed him for about two blocks and he was walking the neighborhood, knocking over garbage cans and looking for food."

The bear could have fled into a greenbelt bordering the East Anchorage neighborhood off Vance Drive, north of Tudor Road . Instead, it went from house to house, a decision that convinced police it was a danger to the neighborhood.

When the bear discovered a cache of goodies in Ken Post's Lana Court carport, he sat down and made himself at home. The cops took aim and fired two shots from a 12-gauge shotgun. The shots awoke Post, who had never before seen a bear in his neighborhood.

"You hear in the news a lot about all these bear attacks, but I don't hike in the woods so I didn't think it pertained to me," he said. "This shook me up a bit."

Not far from Post's home is Far North Bicentenniel Park, where bears having been making a lot of news this summer.

Fish and Game spokesman Bruce Bartley said a search Saturday night turned up no sign of the mama bear who sent Clivia Feliz to the hospital on Friday.

"The chances of running into that bear are slim to none unless she charges us," he said. "For a few days, we'll walk the trail and see if that happens."

Bartley said the area is too densely forested to look for the bear by air.

And he said other options of getting rid of the bear aren't feasible. A culvert trap or a snare is likely to get one of the cubs instead of the sow -- because they're dumber than an adult bear -- "and then we'd have a sow who is just wild," Bartley said.

Tranquilizing the bear isn't an option, because if the bear is charging a wildlife official and the official darts it, the bear has a good five or 10 minutes before the drug kicks in.

"So you'd get beat up by the bear for the next five or 10 minutes," Bartley said.

Darting, he added, "is almost always done from the air."

Bartley said his Saturday night walk through the woods with Fish and Game biologist Rick Sinnott and other gun-toting wildlife officials was tense.

"It's not something a lot of people would be standing in line to do: Walk with your finger on the safety for two or three hours and your head on a swivel," Bartley said.

Every noise is threatening under such circumstances, he said. "We came across one grouse, and we all had our guns trained on it."

And so, as of Sunday evening, the only dead bear in Anchorage this weekend was the black one with a taste for garbage, not a brown one with a distaste for people.

Police gave Post a $341 ticket for leaving garbage outside. No one else got a ticket, including the residents of a home a couple blocks away who had left their garage door open, exposing garbage and luring the bear inside. When a next-door neighbor saw the bear go into the garage, she called 911.

"This morning he was standing right here," Jean Maynard said, pointing at her front porch. "He put his paws right on the steps. I slammed the door and he peed right on the steps."

Maynard thought the bear was gone when she left her house a while later, but the bear was on the other side of her car. She jumped in, drove away, watched the bear amble into her neighbor's garage and then called the cops.

Ryan said police killed the black bear because it wouldn't leave and it wasn't scared of people. Police don't carry tranquilizer guns, he said, and no one was available at the state Department of Fish and Game, whom police call when they think darting a bear is an option.

Post praised the police response and offered no excuses for having garbage outside. He works as a hot dog vendor downtown and when he comes home, he empties the day's trash from his van and puts it in the trash cans under his car port. "I can't store it in the house," he said.

He's going to look into getting bear-proof trash cans, he said -- something that, until Sunday, he figured would be a waste of money for someone living in a populated neighborhood.

"Now it's a reality," Post said. "This was a real eye-opener for me."

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