SUN AND SNOW – Snow evaporates off the roof of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Thursday. More late season snow mixed with rain  is in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday. Sunny weather is in the forecast for the first part of next week. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

'Terrorist' Bear Shot While Out Foraging

By GARLAND KENNEDY

Sentinel Staff Writer

A large bear that raided trash cans, attacked chickens, and broke down a fence fell to a police shotgun early on Monday, law enforcement and wildlife officials said today.

Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Steve Bethune said that he made the decision to put the bear down after hazing attempts failed.

“We attempted to haze these bears to move them away from the urban population centers. We gave that a good effort and the bear didn’t respond to it,” Bethune told the Sentinel. 

ADFG and the Sitka Police Department have pursued five bears in and around Sitka through October. The bear killed Monday was a 550-pound male nicknamed “The Terrorist” by the police department.

On October 12, the bear had broken down Joe Montagna’s fence on Merrill Street and stolen trash from Erica Knox’ driveway on DeGroff.

Then late this past Sunday and early Monday police received several bear calls, from 1705 Charteris Street, 1705 Edgecumbe Drive, 102 and 107 Eberhardt Drive, and, at 12:11 a.m. Monday, a call for an agency assist on Edgecumbe Drive.

“They (officers) were dealing with a lot of people from the community calling about the bear, and the police were in the area,” SPD Sgt. Lance Ewers said. “And then they had a safe opportunity, actually, while waiting for the bear. It walked by with a big bag of garbage in its mouth.”

Ewers said last week that, in efforts to haze the bear away, SPD used non-lethal munitions including pepperballs and tasers.

He specified that he was not at the scene when officers fired, killing the bear, but he stressed that law enforcement waited for a safe angle before firing a shotgun loaded with lead slugs, each weighing 1 and 1/8 ounce.

Bethune said he decided to end the bear’s trash-thieving days in part to ensure that the kill was made by a professional.

“One of the reasons I make the call to put a bear down is because I’d rather have trained professional people do it in a safe manner than the general public… This bear was not acting aggressively toward people, but it had done some property damage. It tore up some chickens, it may be the bear a homeowner shot at a couple of weeks ago. And you get into the situation where you’re weighing risk analysis and trying to get out ahead of it,” Bethune said. He noted that the large boar may have killed a number of dogs last year as well. He added that ADFG and the department have been interested in shooting this problem bear for about a week, but waited until they could do so safely.

The biologist reminded Sitkans to keep their trash secure and away from wildlife.

“It astounds me how we have active bear activity in town night after night after night. People report bears getting into trash and people keep putting their trash out, essentially for the bears… That is what led to the decision to put this bear down,” he said.

He said that the pelt will be sold off at the Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage in March, a traditional event which coincides with the ceremonial start of the Iditarod.

Both Bethune and Ewers noted that the meat is not desirable for consumption.

“You can’t eat brown bear meat, nobody can, you get sick,” Ewers said, citing the dangerous roundworm parasite, trichinosis.

The officer said there’s a positive side: the city has had to kill only a single bear this year, in stark contrast to other towns in Southeast.

“I know the Police Department has been really strict when it comes to issuing bear citations because we don’t want to euthanize these bears. But the good news, if there could be some good news, is that Sitka is really doing good compared to other Southeast Alaskan towns. Currently, the City of Sitka has been forced to euthanize one bear,” Ewers said. He noted that ADFG, without police assistance, killed another bear near Medvejie this month as well. 

Up in Haines and Skagway, the numbers are far higher.

“The call volume up there has been somewhat unprecedented. There have been about 24 bears killed by non-hunters in 2020. One of those was hit by a car, the rest were either illegal or an agency kill or a defense of life and property,” ADFG Assistant Area Management Biologist Carl Koch said of those towns.

All bears killed in Haines and Skagway were brown bears, he said. Koch works out of the Douglas Fish & Game office.

He added that a dozen bears have been killed by the agency in Juneau as well.

Koch added that poor salmon returns and berry harvests may contribute to increased bear scavenging in town.

“It’s hard to say for sure but some logic would say part of it is the change in the natural food supply. The fish runs have been somewhat poor… The berries, we don’t quantify them, but the anecdotal reports were that it was a dismal year,” he said.

In extreme cases, he noted, bears have broken into cars and buildings in search of food. Koch said one person in Juneau was injured by a bear that broke into a trailer.

Koch said bears are trying to gain weight before the winter.

“We’re in the fall… there’s still bears out and about – they’re in the state of hyperphagia where they’re really trying to pack on weight. And they will not den up if there is any food. A lot of people think the first time it snows the bears automatically find a den. They will sometimes hang around longer if there is easy food for them,” he said.

 

Back in Sitka, Ewers encouraged locals to secure their trash and if need be take trash to the transfer station at 206 Jarvis Street for disposal whenever needed.

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20 YEARS AGO

April 2004

Photo caption: Grace Larson holds one of the Easter breads she baked for sale at the annual Rainy Day Bazaar Saturday at Centennial Hall. Hundreds turned out for the event, sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard Spouses and Women’s Association.

50 YEARS AGO

April 1974

All youngsters from walking age on up to age 12 are invited to an Easter egg hunt Sunday. Ages 5 and under meet at the Centennial Building; ages 6-9 in front of the visitor center at Totem Park; and ages 10-12 at Totem Park. Some $150 in cash and merchandise prizes will be offered.

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