Bear thunders into arctic entryway

Fish and Game official would back police if they decided to shoot problem bears

Posted: Sunday, September 07, 2003

The local state wildlife biologist has told Juneau police officers he would support shooting the bear that broke into a Mendenhall Valley arctic entryway early Friday.

"Nobody's preaching the wholesale removal of bears," said Neil Barten of the state Department of Fish and Game.

But a few bears continue to cause problems while avoiding Barten's traps. He said he told police he would back them 100 percent if they had to shoot those bears.

A Thunder Mountain Trailer Park resident called police at about 3:30 a.m. Friday to report that a bear was trapped in the arctic entryway and was scratching at the interior hollow-core door that leads to the living room, according to police reports. The residents successfully blocked the door with a couch.

Responding officers could hear the bear's growling and scratching, and they safely removed the occupants - a man, a woman and a girl, police reported.

Officers reportedly were at the scene for more than an hour before the bear escaped into the woods after clawing through the bottom of the steel exterior door and bending the bottom section inward.

On Aug. 22, the residents also reported a bear gained access to the arctic entryway by breaking a window and climbing through.

Police Capt. Tom Porter said the residents weren't at fault because they had secured their trash inside.

In Friday's incident, though, officers could not have shot the bear safely, he said, pointing out that safety is the police's primary consideration. An officer shooting at a bear fires a lethal full ounce of lead in a solid projectile, Porter noted.

Ideally, Barten would trap or tranquilize the bear, Porter said.

Police officers don't like to shoot bears, Porter said. And many people don't like it when officers shoot bears, but there are residents who complain that police should shoot more, he added.

"Frankly, we're pleased we've only had to destroy one bear this year" for creating a nuisance, he said.

In July, a police officer shot and killed a bear that broke into a locked storage shed in the Thunder Mountain Trailer Park.

In prior years, police have shot more bears. Residents' efforts to secure trash have helped reduce the problems with bears, Porter said.

Barten agreed that public safety is of primary importance. But he said he is certain the bear that caused trouble Friday in the Thunder Mountain Trailer Park will cause more trouble.

"Given the M.O. - and I don't doubt that it's the same bear from three weeks ago - this bear might break into other sheds," he said.

Tony Carroll can be reached at

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