June 7, 2012 | Volume 42, No.23

Tagged brown bears shot, killed

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Ken VanSpronsen said this week that juvenile brown bears shot by residents at Beach Road and Cathedral View subdivision were allowable under defense of life and property provisions in state law.

Both bears had ear tags. Trooper VanSpronsen replaces former wildlife trooper Ricky Merritt and started on the job Friday.

The bear shot on Beach Road had recently broken into a garage and had gotten into a freezer, VanSpronsen said. Twice it tore through a visqueen porch of a trailer and was trying to get into the trailer when it was shot 4 p.m. Saturday.

The bear had munched on a jug of laundry soap and torn open some cans before it was shot, he said.

The bear shot at Cathedral View was trying to get into a goat pen surrounded by an electric fence, the trooper said, and had been pushing on the fence and on other things there, the trooper said. “The fence was on. Who knows why (the bear continued)? (The owner) had an electric fence and everything else.”

The bear was shot at 1 p.m. Thursday. Haines Police, who made the initial investigation, said they had received no calls about the bear at the home before it was shot.

It’s the second bear shot at the property. The owner previously was tried and acquitted for shooting a troublesome bear across the road from the property.The owner had a license to take the bear but was charged with shooting across the road.

“We can put (bears) down, but anybody in defense of life or property can shoot a bear,” said Haines Borough police chief Gary Lowe. “If it’s a nuisance bear, we’re going to put it down, but we’ll talk to a wildlife biologist before hand (and get agency approval),” Lowe said.

Lowe said police had been called to Beach Road a dozen times in the past few weeks and had twice shot the bear there with rubber slugs. He said he thought the bear had gotten into some food Saturday, but hadn’t previously. “It’s not a garbage issue. They’re not getting into any garbage.”

Lowe said Beach Road residents reported the shot bear may have gotten into fish carcasses dumped there. Resident Diana Kelm said about two weeks ago she saw a bear matching the desciption of the one shot Saturday, eating salmon carcasses dumped in a roadside ditch near the bottom of the road, where gravel and paved sections meet.

Kelm said she saw about three dozen carcasses. Fish smell had been persistent there and she speculated the fish remains may have been dumped in winter. “It looked like fillet garbage,” Kelm said.

Police are watching a third bear, also a juvenile with a tagged ear that has been lingering around homes at 2 Mile Lutak Road. That bear has dug around septic tanks and police have shot it with rubber slugs at least once.

Al Badgley, who lives at 2.5 Mile Lutak Road, said Monday there are two juvenile brown bears making daily or nightly rounds in his neighborhood, including one with a tagged ear. One chomped on a crab pot buoy on his property, puncturing it.

“Usually they stay on the beach more. They’re not real skittish of people. We had a tourist who went up there and took a real close picture of (one),” Badgley said. “We have people stopping in the middle of the road.”

Lowe said police this season have issued one warning under borough law that forbids residents from attracting bears. That was to a Small Tracts Road resident who cleaned up garbage they had outside, he said.

Under state and borough laws, a person cannot shoot a bear after illegally attracting it to their property by leaving out garbage or food sources.

Lowe said he believed the two killed bears were three-year-olds seen in previous years as cubs along Chilkoot River, now in the first year separated from their mother.

“They’re so used to people from the Chilkoot, they’re not afraid. They’re just hanging around,” he said.