FAIRBANKS - A homeowner and a retiree combined forces to fatally shoot a male black bear that raided a freezer in Ester this week.
State wildlife officials said it's likely the same bear that had been seen for the past week in the community five miles south of Fairbanks.
"It probably made its way into town, found food, figured it was an easy way to add calories for the winter and decided to hang around," said Tom Seaton, an assistant area biologist Tom Seaton with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Seaton said the shooting was legal. Getting into the freezer, even though it was unlocked and on a porch, provides enough justification for the homeowner to shoot it, Seaton said.
The homeowner wounded the bear, then phoned Gus Wagner, who had a legal hunting license and a bear harvest tag.
Wagner said he found the bear in the woods and "finished him off."
"It was a beautiful bear," Wagner said. "I've got the meat hanging in the garage and I'm going to make a rug out of the hide."
Wagner, a 64-year-old retiree, moved to Alaska from Pennsylvania last year after his wife died.
"That was exciting," he said of shooting his first bear. "When you hunt little stuff in Pennsylvania like white-tailed deer, it's not the same."
Seaton, the biologist, confirmed it was a "pretty nice" bear.
He added that the shooting was probably for the best, especially since it wasn't a mother bear with cubs. Once a bear gets used to eating food from a freezer, Seaton said, it's not leaving.
"Probably the best outcome is to have somebody take him and use the hide and meat."