Grizzly bear breaks into Anchorage Zoo

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- ''Trouble'' isn't saying why he broke into the city zoo. The 300-pound grizzly is too busy having a temper tantrum.

''He was beating on the bars and making a lot of big racket,'' said Pat Lampi, curator of the Anchorage Zoo, who darted the 3 1/2-year-old bear after he broke into the zoo this week for at least the third time.

''I just call him Trouble because that's certainly what he has been getting into.''

Trouble took a wrong turn after waking up from his winter slumber. Instead of keeping to the Chugach Mountains that border Anchorage, he strolled into the city, romped through subdivisions, snacked on garbage and lounged on a deck or two.

He tore through the zoo's chain-link perimeter fence or dug underneath to visit Jake, the zoo's half-ton adult grizzly.

Trouble raided the waterfowl feeders and ate cracked corn. He feasted on duck and goose food pellets. He killed ''Mama Goose,'' a snow-white goose that was a favorite with children.

''That miserable bear killed that goose, didn't eat it, just killed it,'' said zoo director Sammye Seawell. ''Probably the goose was making such a racket the bear figured, 'Shut up.'''

Trouble's travels ended Tuesday when Lampi arrived at work and saw the aptly named bear once again sniffing around Jake's cage.

Lampi called the state Department of Fish and Game for backup and then grabbed his dart gun to sedate the bear. His first shot was deflected by a small branch that swatted the bear's ear, riling him up for another 90 minutes of crashing about the zoo.

Once he quieted down, a second shot hit him in the right shoulder. Trouble became drowsy right beside Jake's cage and slumped to the ground. Zookeepers knew it was safe to approach when Jake reached through the bars of his cage and bopped the juvenile on the foot. No movement.

Trouble was stashed in the old polar bear exhibit. He was plenty unhappy when he woke up to find his footloose ways had come to an end.

''It sounds like somebody hammering,'' Seawell said, as the bear pounded on the cage bars with his paws.

Unlike perhaps any other city in the United States, Anchorage's 260,000 residents like bears. A 1996 survey by Fish and Game found that about 75 percent of residents said the nunber of bears in Anchorage -- roughly 50 black and 10 grizzlies -- were just about right.

Most of the calls about Anchorage bears come from the Hillside neighborhood, an area of upscale homes built on multi-acre lots that borders the state park.

Fifteen miles north of the city in the fast-growing suburb of Eagle River, there are dozens of black bears and about five brown bears.

''They are just zigzagging all around in there,'' said Rick Sinnott, area wildlife biologist for the Department of Fish and Game.

The bears follow the creeks and greenbelts from the mountains, finding their way into the city where they quickly can become a problem if they get a taste for garbage.

Trouble and a sibling, both almost blond in color, were first spotted last fall getting into garbage, killing pet rabbits, eating sheep parts and being a general nuisance as they roamed through the subdivisions in south Anchorage.

''It got to be a little bit too much. They were trying to establish a home here, and the middle of the city was not the best place,'' Sinnott said.

He said Trouble's sibling is probably the bear spotted this spring eating a moose carcass on the popular McHugh Creek hiking trail, south of the city.

''Now we have the two little bears coming back into town,'' he said.

Trouble won't be released back to the wild. Given his fondness for garbage, he'd just find his way back somehow. Zookeepers also don't want to destroy him. A zoo in Duluth, Minn., has come to the rescue. It says it will give Trouble a new home, and maybe a new start.

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