Bear shot in tussle Correction 9/6/00

Two bruins trapped in homes over weekend

Posted: Tuesday, September 05, 2000

Increasingly aggressive in their pursuit of food, bears ended up in entryways, kitchens and dead this weekend.

Police shot a bear in the Blueberry Hill subdivision Saturday night, one of 25 bear calls they had over the three-day weekend, making up nearly half the police report. The incidents are signs bears are becoming more aggressive as they prepare to hibernate in what is already the worst bear year in a decade.

"I've been here 15 years. This is one of the three or four years that bears have been most aggressive in those years," said police Sgt. Tom Wehnes. "I know of an incident where a bear went into a trailer and took pork chops off a counter."

The bear that died on Blueberry Hill had been a regular visitor, said Lach Zemp, who lives in the area.

"We had a bear that was routinely coming up on our deck every night about midnight," Zemp said. "All our garbage was inside."

The bear did manage to eat scones Zemp had shut in his car a few weeks ago by opening the rear passenger door.

On Saturday the bear was going after a garbage can left out somewhere in the neighborhood, though garbage pickup on Blueberry Hill wasn't scheduled until today, Zemp said.

A police officer spotted the bear trying to open a garbage can secured with bungee cords at 8:25 p.m. Saturday, Wehnes said. The officer yelled at the bear, which started toward the woods with the can, then dropped the can and ran off. The officer retrieved the trash can when the bear appeared again and grabbed the can from the other side.

"The officer found himself playing tug of war with a bear over a garbage can and thought to himself 'This is foolish,' " Wehnes said.

The officer let go and backed away, but the bear didn't retreat.

"In the process the bear reared up on his hind legs in a very, very aggressive fashion and the officer shot him," Wehnes said.

Killing one bear didn't end the problems. Rory Kasnick woke up about 12:30 a.m. Sunday to find a bear trapped in the arctic entryway.

He was sleeping in a back room at his parents' house in Lemon Creek when he heard crashes downstairs.

"I opened the door really wide and I looked down and there were all these broken pieces of porcelain all over the floor," Kasnick said. "I heard this growl and I looked up and there was the black bear looking up at me."

Kasnick slammed the door as the bear jumped at him, then called the police. They were able to open the porch door and the bear ran off.

Kasnick said the porch door must have been slightly ajar and the bear could smell garbage kept inside. Once inside, the wind may have shut the door on the bear, locking it in. The bear broke a chair, table and bench in the entryway and clawed up the door trying to get out.

On Sixth Street a woman opened her kitchen door to let her cat out at about 9 p.m. Monday, then turned to talk to a friend, Wehnes said. When she turned back to the door a bear was in her kitchen.

Bears are causing problems in most parts of Juneau, Wehnes said. Police killed two bears this summer including the one Saturday. Fish and Game tranquilized two others.

The police respond to a bear call only if there is an immediate danger to life and property. Otherwise they refer calls to Fish and Game area biologist Neil Barten. When they police do respond, they first try to scare the bear away with cracker shots or seal bombs.

"We don't want to go shoot the bears if we don't have to and sometimes we place ourselves at some risk," Wehnes said.

Usually they end up issuing a warning or citation about garbage to someone in the area.

Stronger laws and enforcement are needed to solve the bear problem, said Barten, who plans to approach the Juneau Assembly this fall for some changes in ordinances regarding garbage and other bear attractants.

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