Bears paying price for human encounters

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010

ANCHORAGE - The 2010 bear season is here, and so far the bears are paying the price for encounters with humans in the Anchorage area.

On Friday, an Eagle River homeowner killed a young black bear that sneaked into a chicken coop and killed a bird. This occurred hours after a different bear "mouthed" the leg of a girl at a neighborhood playground near Elmendorf Air Force Base.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says so far six young bears have been shot in the municipality of Anchorage - most of them in Eagle River - over roughly the past two weeks.

The attack on the chicken occurred at about 10 p.m. Friday, as George Drummond sat dozing in front of the television at his home. A neighbor banged on his door and told him there was a bear in his coop.

Drummond, 62, looked outside to see a 150-pound black bear eating his favorite chicken, an Araucana named Goldie.

Drummond said he picked up a garden hose, set it on "jet" and sprayed.

"I was squirting it in the head and the face, and it just looked at me," he said.

He then fired his tiny .25-caliber handgun four times into the ground to scare the animal away. The bear moved toward his neighbor, Drummond said.

"It kind of made an advance towards him. So he gave it a couple shots with the .45," he said.

Dying, the bear crossed the road where Drummond said he killed it with two more gun shots from the .25.

A ranger also shot a black bear at the Eagle River Nature Center on Friday, said Department of Fish and Game area biologist Greg Sinnott. "It was trying to get in all the doors and couldn't be driven away."

A black bear also reportedly walked up to four girls at a playground in the Moose Crossing military housing between Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson, said Elmendorf Deputy Public Affairs Officer Stephen Lee.

"Three of them, I'm told, hit the ground, to kind of just play dead," Lee said.

The fourth girl stood and talked to the bear, "Trying to make herself as big as possible to scare the bear away," he said.

The bear, which looked to be about 3 years old, approached one of the girls who was laying down and "mouthed" her leg, Lee said.

The girl screamed and the bear split, running for the woods.

The girl had a mark on her leg but no puncture wounds.

Military wildlife agents searched for the animal but couldn't find it, Lee said.

Playing dead is normally considered a last resort and isn't a good idea with all bears, said Valerie Connor, conservation director for the Alaska Center for the Environment.

The theory is if attacked by a black bear, fight back, but curl into a ball and protect your neck from brown bears.

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