It was still pitch black outside at 6:55 a.m. Tuesday morning when a brown bear darted across a road in the Lemon Creek area and was struck by a vehicle and killed instantly.
“We didn’t really see anything because it was too dark,” said Amanda Seider, a 25-year-old barista at the Heritage Coffee drive-thru on Glacier Highway, located a few feet away from where the collision took place. “One of our customers came by and was like, ‘There’s a dead bear, it’s really big.’”
The driver, a 50-year-old woman, was not injured in the crash with the 300-pound bruin, police said. There was minimal damage to her 2004 Jeep Cherokee.
Juneau Police Department spokeswoman Erann Kalwara said there was nothing to the woman could have done to avoid hitting the bear as it walked out into the roadway.
“She reported she was travelling straight ahead and heard and felt an impact but did not see what she had struck,” she said. “It was not until she pulled over and got out of her vehicle that she saw it was a bear.”
Stacy Kikendall, an assistant manager at Tyler Rental, said the accident took place right outside the store, located at 5295 Glacier Highway.
“Just, like, right there in the middle of the road,” she said, pointing to the highway. “I saw somebody pull over and their lights were flashing, and the next thing the police were here.”
The Juneau Police Department, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and employees at Tyler Rental helped remove the bear from the street with a front loader. It was taken to the local Fish and Game office, where its carcass has already been disposed of.
Fish and Game area biologist Stephanie Sell said the bear was young — probably between two and four years old. It was a male. She said they salvaged its hide and its skull and threw away the meat.
“We don’t salvage the meat,” she said in a phone interview, adding, “People don’t really eat brown bear meat. If it was black bear meat, it probably would have been donated to a charity.”
Fish and Game will send the hide to its central office in Anchorage, where it will likely be donated and auctioned off at the Fur Rendezvous Festival, held each year in February just before the start of the Iditarod sled dog race. Fish and Game officials in Juneau will hold onto the bruin’s skull and probably use it for educational purposes in classrooms, Sell said.
It’s not the same brown bear that was spotted in the Mendenhall Valley earlier this month because it’s discernibly smaller, Sell added. It’s possible the two bruins, which are a rare sight this far inland, were siblings.
“They may have been siblings that split up at some point,” she said.
Fish and Game began receiving calls of a brown bear in the valley around Brotherhood Bridge and the Mendenhall River on Nov. 11. Simultaneously, they received calls about another brown bear in neighborhoods of the Lemon Creek area, she said.
Kikendall said she and other employees have seen it traveling to and from the woods behind Lemon Creek and the nearby dump.
“It’s been travelling back and forth because we’ve seen paw prints,” she said, “so it’s going in between the coffee shop and (Tyler Rental). I think it goes to the dump and eats, and then goes out there (in the woods) and lives.”
Fish and Game biologists opened up the bear’s stomach to examine its contents and found human food and garbage.
“Broccoli, crayons and stuff like that,” Sell said.
Sell said that finding should serve as a reminder to Juneau residents that not all bears are hibernating yet, so be sure to keep human garbage contained and secure.
“I think the important fact is it was still getting into stuff,” Sell said. “It’s another reminder that people need to contain their attractants and make sure their garbage isn’t stored out in the open.”
Fish and Game officials estimate that four to five bears are hit on the road each year in Juneau.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include more information from Juneau Police Department spokeswoman Erann Kalwara.