Bear kills family dog in Mendenhall Valley

Dog escaped bear, only to succumb to injuries at veterinarian clinic

Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2003

A Mendenhall Valley black bear is being targeted for extermination after it dragged a dog out of its doghouse and left it with fatal wounds Monday morning.

The attack happened at about 5 a.m. at the Montana Creek Road home of Tish and David Forrest.

"I've already cried buckets about this," Tish Forrest, 42, said. "I've got a 6-year-old son and it's pretty scary."

The Forrests' daughter Veida, 20, woke to the desperate yelps coming from the family's 11-year-old Dalmatian, Freckles.

Veida saw a large black bear drag Freckles out of the doghouse, between the entryway to the home and a wooded area nearby, Tish Forrest said.

She said her daughter began screaming, "A bear got Freckles! A bear got Freckles!" as the bruin pulled the struggling dog into the woods.

The bear shook the dog by the head and neck, but Freckles escaped and limped back to the house. The family rushed the dog to a veterinarian, but the wounds were too severe. Freckles died at about 8:30 a.m. that morning. The family's 14-year-old black Labrador retriever Elvira also was in the doghouse at the time, but was not injured.

The family lives in a sparsely populated area of the Mendenhall Valley, just west of the Mendenhall River. Tish Forrest described the fish stream that runs behind the home as a major wildlife corridor, where bears, deer and other wildlife are commonly seen.

"We've seen bears eating skunk cabbage across the way, but this is a lot more aggressive behavior than we're used to seeing in the woods," she said.

David Forrest, 51, reported the incident Monday to the state Department of Fish and Game.

Neil Barten, a Fish and Game biologist, said the agency is working to capture the bear and have it killed.

He said biologists placed a large metal trap in the area Tuesday. The trap, known as a culvert trap, is baited with food to lure the animal inside. The bear's presence inside the cage triggers a trap door, locking the bruin inside until Fish and Game biologists can retrieve the animal, Barten said. The bear will be killed after it is removed from the area, Barten said.

He said it is uncommon for black bears to show aggressive behavior and that such attacks usually come from brown bears. Barten noted, though, that brown bear attacks also are uncommon.Monday's incident was not the first time Fish and Game has been called out for a bear attacking a Juneau dog.

Bill Corbus, who lives on Thane Road south of downtown, shot and killed a black bear last October after it tried to carry his dog Bruiser into the woods.

Corbus, commissioner of the state Department of Revenue and former president of Alaska Electric Light & Power, said Bruiser, a 60- to 70-pound mixed-breed, suffered puncture wounds to the head but survived.

Barten said the shooting was justified because the bear posed a threat to life and property.

He said it can be difficult to prevent bear encounters in heavily wooded areas, but noted precautions can dissuade bears from returning to areas occupied by people.

"It is a case where we live in an area where there are bears everywhere," Barten said.

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