Brown Bear Sticking Around Eagle River Makes Residents Edgy

Animal goes from porch to porch looking for an easy meal


Doug O'Hara / Anchorage Daily News / October 16, 2003

 

A penchant for garbage may doom this young bear.
Up to 50 people have called state biologists with reports, mostly from the Eaglewood and Eagle Crossing subdivisions. Two elementary schools have reminded students about what to do if they see a bear, and Ravenwood even had indoor recess once when someone called to say the bear was nearby, school officials said.

"He's not passing through the area; he's owning the area now," resident Colleen Deese said. "I'm worried for my kids."

Deese and her husband, Guy, watched the bear amble down the middle of Highland Ridge Drive early Wednesday morning, visiting one house after another, as though checking for quick eats.

"He didn't care that anybody was out there," she said. "He walked down the middle of the street like he owned it. It was pretty intimidating that he was just walking up right on up on people's porches."

Rick Sinnott, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, planned to stake out the neighborhood Wednesday night and possibly shoot the bear with rubber bullets to discourage it. Hazing might be the bear's last chance to avoid getting shot and killed, he said.

Eaglewood's rules require homeowners to keep garbage inside until 12 hours before pickup. But the bear, a 3- to 4-year-old of unknown gender, obviously has learned to associate people with food, Sinnott said.

"It thinks we're a bait bucket," he said.

Last week, the bear dragged garbage into a greenbelt trail between Mitkof Loop and Nizki Circle in daylight on pickup morning, said Charles Pannone. His wife, Cindi, later saw the bear enter the park and snuck around to take its photo.

"She was less worried about the bear than I was," he said. "She was actually out raking the yard in the dark."

Neighbor Charie McCurtain, who works with the Eaglewood homeowners association, said she now won't walk schoolchildren up that path. She drives them.

"As far as we know, there hasn't been a confrontation -- they just see him walking through the woods or walking through a yard," McCurtain added. "Everybody is hoping that he'll pass through, but it's not appearing like he is."

The Anchorage area is home to an estimated 60 brown bears and up to 250 black bears, many of them attracted to Eagle River for its salmon run and undeveloped wild land. A young grizzly was shot in the area a few years ago for similar behavior. So far this year, an estimated six brown bears have died in the city, most due to vehicle collisions.

Adolescent brown bears, especially males, sometimes explore urban areas, Sinnott said. But this bear should have outgrown that stage.

"This bear has graduated from college and he's got a job and he's 20-something and he shouldn't be in town," Sinnott said. "It's time for him to get a life, and he's not."

Daily News reporter Doug O'Harra can be reached at do'harra@adn.com .


 
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