A man whose vehicle struck and injured a glacier bear Sunday in the Dredge Lakes area said today he plans to make his third trip into the forest to put the bear out of its misery.
The adult bear was struck by a Toyota 4Runner, driven by Jim Beeson, around 5:27 p.m. near Mendenhall Loop Road and Mint Way, said Neil Barten, an area biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. After the bear was struck, it wandered into the woods with Beeson following.
"He felt so bad about hitting the bear," Barten said. "He saw it was injured and he actually went about a quarter mile (into the woods) before he found it. He said it was on the ground, sort of stuck in between two trees."
Beeson said he got within 20 feet of the bear, but the animal, which was on its stomach with its head down, never moved. He was about to roll the bear over to be sure it was dead when he saw the shallowest of breathing.
"I was sure he was in the last stages of his life and I wanted to end its misery," Beeson said. "But I wanted to make sure what I thought was the right thing to do was the legal thing to do."
Beeson made the trek back to the road to phone police. Barten was notified and gave Beeson permission to kill the bear.
"I told him if he knew where the bear was, could put it out of its suffering and could salvage the meat and hide, then would he mind dispatching the bear and we would come and pick it up," Barten said.
But when Beeson went back Monday, after taking the day off of work to look for the bear, it was gone.
"This isn't that unusual with an injured bear," Barten said. "You seldom ever find them again. They usually crawl off into a hole somewhere or under some brush and die or recover if they were just stunned."
Beeson said he and a friend are planning another trip to the area Wednesday to look for the bear again.
"It just bothers me," Beeson said. "I hate to see animals suffer and I was a hunter for many years, but I never wanted to see an animal suffer. It's our responsibility, if we injure an animal to do whatever we can to make sure it's not wandering in pain and suffering for days on end."
Though hikers on the trails in the Dredge Lake area should not approach the bear if they see it, Barten said the injured bear likely is not a threat because it would probably seek out a fairly secluded area to die. Barten said hikers, runners and bikers in the area should use common sense and contact Fish and Game with any information about the bear.