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

 
 

Bear cubs dead; orphan at harbor

 


It’s been a rough week for bear cubs.

A brown bear cub was found mauled and mutilated near the Chilkoot River bridge Saturday and a black bear cub was hit and killed by a car near the airport early Monday morning.

An orphaned brown bear cub has also been wandering around the harbor in recent days.

Park ranger Preston Kroes said the mauled cub, which was discovered by foreign photographers early Saturday morning, was so badly disfigured its sex could not be determined. Another bear had partially eaten the cub and attempted to cache it, Kroes said.

In his five years on the job, Kroes has never seen a mauled bear near the Chilkoot area. “Most of the bears here are fairly tolerant of each other and give each other space,” he said.

Kroes speculated a dominant male or sow might have attacked the cub, but without any witnesses, it is impossible to know for sure.

President of the Alaska Chilkoot Bear Foundation Pam Randles agreed with Kroes that attack by a dominant male is the most likely scenario, but not the only scenario. “Big males have been known to kill cubs to bring a female back into her heat cycle, then he can mate with her and the likelihood of his genes carrying on is greater,” Randles said.

Kroes said the cub had a mother with it, and the sow has still been hanging around the area where the cub died. The two bears had only wandered into the Chilkoot area several days before the mauling and were not regular visitors to the area, Kroes said.

Haines Borough interim police chief Simon Ford said a small black bear cub was killed around 6 a.m. Monday morning after being struck by a vehicle near 4 Mile Haines Highway. “It had just happened. The blood was still frothy and bright,” Ford said.

“Whoever hit it just dragged it off the road and didn’t call it in and kept driving,” Ford said. “They should have called and reported it.”

It’s the first bear-vehicle collision of this season, he said. Ford said he was unable to locate a sow in the area.

An orphaned brown bear yearling wandering around the harbor has prompted many phone calls from residents, but hasn’t been causing problems or getting into garbage, Ford said.

The cub has been walking along Front Street and onto the breakwater to fish, but hasn’t acted aggressively toward people or property. Randles said such young cubs don’t tend to cause problems because they haven’t become habituated to people and are just skittish and trying to feed themselves.

“The little guy hasn’t learned what is appropriate to eat, but he’s going to give it his best shot,” she said.

Even if the bear finds enough to eat this season without its mother, it is unlikely to survive the winter, Randles said. “Its chances of surviving the winter aren’t very high because it doesn’t know how to make a den,” she said.

Police shot stun grenades at the bear Friday to shoo it away. “It responded like you would hope and ran into the woods,” Ford said.