Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Killed sow was landfill garbage bear


State wildlife officials this week said they would kill three brown bear cubs of a 15-year-old sow shot early Monday by a resident at Letnikof Cove. Their deaths would raise to seven the number of brown bears killed this year following incidents around homes and property.

“It’s the humane thing to do. Otherwise they’re going to starve to death,” said Ryan Scott, area management biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game.

Scott said the ear-tagged sow was likely the same one that pushed in doors south of town and entered homes on Small Tracts Road and in Letnikof subdivision in recent weeks. “It’s such bizarre behavior, I can’t believe it’s not the same one.”

The state was expecting to put down the bear before the resident dispatched it, biologist Scott said. “This wasn’t a big surprise. The cubs are an unfortunate part of it… Maybe (the sow) was having a hard time feeding everybody. She was able to get a lot of food a couple times. They learn quickly.”

Before it was shot, the sow had been pushing on a window and tearing up items on a porch. On Saturday night, it apparently wrecked the door of the same Letnikof subdivision house it entered 10 days ago when it emptied a refrigerator and ate half the contents of a freezer.

In the previous incident, the bear entered the house while its owner was away, coming through a two-foot-wide window off a garage, then pushed in an interior door. “I’d say she had a very enjoyable time,” said homeowner Rob Pollock. “I’m just grateful nothing besides the window, fridge and door were damaged.”

Pollock was home when the bear returned Saturday. “I woke up screaming” at the bear, he said. By the time he phoned police, the bear was already pushing on a door at his neighbor’s house.

At about 4 a.m. Aug. 8, a bear entered a split-level home on Small Tracts Road by breaking a door jam. The bear went down a flight of stairs into the home’s lower level. Residents upstairs stomped and yelled and the bear departed after a few minutes. It didn’t get into food, said Haines Borough police chief Gary Lowe.

Generally, only black bears will go into a home and only when doors or garage doors are left open, said biologist Scott. “Going into a building is so rare.”

Scott said it’s curious that the killed sow was a cub habituated to feeding at the FAA Road landfill in 1999, one of 10 relocated to sites between Haines and Juneau when Haines Sanitation was discontinuing open dumping. Six of 10 of those bears have been killed, he said.

“Where has she been? What changed to make this happen? It’s hard to know what drove her to do this,” he said. Sows mature at seven years old, so it’s likely the shot bear has had cubs previously.

Police and trooper officials this week mentioned two other brown bears of concern, a brown bear that was overturning dumpsters around downtown and a juvenile with a green ear tag that was apparently getting fish by false-charging fishermen along Chilkoot River. Officials pepper-sprayed the juvenile bear after it stole a stringer of fish and climbed on a state trooper truck Friday night.

“That one’s a pill. She’s pushing all the buttons,” Scott said.

Although the bear has been reported acting aggressively toward fishermen and others, biologist Scott he didn’t witness that behavior Friday. He said the bear appeared healthy and he was hopeful it might grow out of such behavior before it became a bigger problem.

“I’m not wound up about it. It’s about her giving up those bad habits. I think it’s going to work out. Several times (Friday) it was quiet around people and other bears,” he said.