Two brown bears shot, left at 19 Mile; 2 cubs orphaned; probe under way
State wildlife trooper Rick Merritt is investigating the shootings of two adult brown bears discovered recently near 19 Mile Haines Highway, including a sow with two cubs born this year.
The cubs since have been seen in the vicinity. "If the cubs stay in the area, they might be captured, if we can find a zoo for them. If they move on, we’ll let Mother Nature take its course and see if they’re able to survive the winter," Merritt said this week.
The sow had been photographed by eagle-watchers as well as by the caretaker of a nearby state parks cabin. Its carcass was discovered Saturday afternoon by two Canadian fishermen on a gravel bar about 500 yards into the river, adjacent to a pullout there, shot in the head.
"This sounds like somebody out for a joyride maybe had a new rifle and wanted to give it a try, which is a shame considering she had two cubs," Merritt said.
Merritt said the caretaker heard a single gunshot Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Later in the day, the fishermen came to the caretaker cabin to report their find. The condition of the carcass would roughly match a Saturday shooting, Merritt said.
On Sept. 13, troopers on a flight over the Chilkat River spotted the carcass of a brown bear boar bobbing offshore a makeshift boat launch at 19 Mile. A nylon rope tied to a paw of the bear tethered it to a fallen tree about 15 feet away, Merritt said.
The boar weighed about 500 pounds and had been shot in the stomach. "It had been there a while, at least a couple weeks," Merritt said. Troopers have no information linking the two killings, he said.
"We have two bears that were shot and found in the same area. It could be a coincidence, but it’s a little odd," Merritt said.
Merritt said those responsible for the shootings could be charged with hunting without a permit or a bear tag, and failing to salvage the hide, skulls and claws of the animal. Such salvage of brown bears is required even in instances of bears shot in self-defense, he said.
The killed bears were likely ones from the upper valley, Merritt said.
He said there’s a possibility the sow may have been taken by a hunter who didn’t see the cubs. Taking sows is legal, but not ones accompanied by cubs.
Merritt said he’s hoping concern about the shootings will prompt someone with information about them to step forward. His phone is 766-2533.
The fall brown bear season started Sept. 15 and ends Dec. 31. Fish and Game reports 11 bears have been harvested to date, including seven females and one taken in defense of life and property. During the spring hunt March 15 to May 31, eight brown bears were taken, including two females.
Hunters each year take about 20 brown bears from the area, according to Fish and Game.