Biologist Shoots Grizzly in Eagle River


"BEAUTIFUL BEAR": It had been prowling in area, was found at bird feeder

Megan Holland / Anchorage Daily News / June 27, 2004


A female brown bear that had been showing up in Eagle River subdivisions for more than nine months was killed Friday night, said Anchorage biologist Rick Sinnott, who shot the grizzly in the head once, then another four times, before it died.

"I didn't kill this bear. The people that are feeding it garbage and birdseed did," Sinnott, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist, said Saturday.

The 3-year-old, 300-pound bear had recently alarmed Eagle River residents in the dense neighborhoods above the river by killing two moose calves near homes, ripping into people's garbage, and knocking over a backyard fence to retrieve barbecue leftovers. It had generated 100 complaints since spring.

The bear had been seen prowling Eagle Ridge, Eagle Crossing, Eaglewood and surrounding areas. The incidents had been escalating, said Sinnott, though it had never been reported to act aggressively toward people.

The state had decided to dispose of the bold bear before it appeared in the back yard of Tom Skore on Kak Island Street in Eagle Crossing around 11:30 p.m. Friday.

Skore saw the bear, sitting down, wrestling with his squirrel-proof bird feeder, about 15 feet from his back porch, he said Saturday. It was hot inside, and Skore had the screen door open while he watched late-night news.

"He was listening to the TV with us, I'm sure," he said.

Skore called 911, and when Sinnott showed up just a few minutes later, already on his way to look for the bear in the neighborhoods, he took aim. After being shot with a 12-gauge shotgun slug, the bear took off running down a nearby bike path and into the woods.

It created a spectacle in the neighborhood, with people gawking at the running bear, said Richard Clemons, a neighbor who lives on Kak Island Street.

"That was a beautiful bear when he was running," said Clemons, who watched it from a window in his house. "Just beautiful."

About half an hour later, Sinnott caught up with the bear and shot it another four times near Eagle River, two to three blocks from Skore's house. Then it ran into the thick woods nearby, where it died.

"I was hoping they would just dart it," said Skore, who regretted the death.

Skore defended his bird feeder, though, saying he has lived in the same house for 15 years, never with a problem.

"I'm in the center of the neighborhood, not the periphery," he said. "The bear just wasn't afraid of people."

Skore said Thursday morning he noticed his neighbor's garbage strewn across the front lawn. He said his own garbage can had paw prints and a tooth mark in it.

In the Eagle Crossing subdivision, Sinnott noticed a large number of houses with bird feeders. He noted, however, that not all of them had birdseed. Skore said his did.

"This bear exhibited much more restraint than the people in the neighborhood did," Sinnott said. All of its behaviors were in line with what bears are supposed to and predicted to do, he said.

If this bear wanted to, he noted, "it could have subsisted entirely on the garbage in those neighborhoods," Sinnott said.

It will happen again, Sinnott added. A brown bear had been in the same area in 1999. "The circumstances were remarkably the same." It too had to be killed.

Until everyone stops leaving garbage and birdseed out, bears will continue to be a problem, he said. Sinnott did note, however, the intense effort of some people in the neighborhood to save the bear.

Will Skore put his bird feeder out again? "I haven't decided yet," he said. "I want to do the right thing."

But Skore wondered whether the bear would have gone on to someone else's yard and threatened people or pets if it hadn't stopped at his bird feeder.

Daily News reporter Megan Holland can be reached at mrholland@adn.com



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