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Bear shot at Bible camp in Sterling

Grizzly interested in livestock; marks 1st ‘defense of life and property’ killing of year

Posted: Sunday, May 07, 2006

In regard to bear-human interactions, this year was off to a good start, but all that changed last Monday when a bear was killed in defense of life and property, making it the first DLP shooting in 2006.

“It was a sub-adult male brown bear shot on May 1 at the Solid Rock Bible Camp,” said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

According to Selinger, the heavily wooded wildland area around the camp is a thoroughfare for bears.

“They move through the area on their way to — I’d imagine — Soldotna Creek, Beaver Creek, Robinson Loop, Strawberry Road — that general area,” he said.

While bears using the area as a transect aren’t necessarily a problem, they become more concerning when they linger rather than just pass through. Often this happens as a result of an attractant, which has been the case in previous years, according to Selinger.

“In the past, in that general area, there were problems with bears getting into garbage,” he said.

Selinger said that, in this incident, the 2- to 3-year-old bruin may have been drawn to domestic livestock in the area.

“The bear was interested in something there. There are a lot of animals and animal feed in the area, which might have piqued its curiosity or been a factor,” he said.

Selinger said a call came in after bear tracks were seen in the area the last week of April.

He dispatched Larry Lewis, a Fish and Game wildlife technician, to discuss bear mitigation techniques, such as using electric fencing around livestock.

The bear returned on the first day of May, before any changes could be made.

“From the report I received, the bear came in and didn’t charge anyone, but got fairly close,” Selinger said.

A resident tried to run it off, according to Selinger, but the man was unsuccessful.

“He shot over the bear’s head, but it didn’t leave. Fearing for safety and convinced it wasn’t going to leave, he put it down,” Selinger said.

While this incident may be a black mark on an otherwise uneventful season between bears and humans, this year still is off to a better start than the past few.

“In both 2003 and 2004, we had our first DLPs of the year in March,” Selinger said.

The 2005 year started with a brown bear mauling a jogger out for an early morning run near Mackey Lake on April 18.

Then on May 5,2005, the first DLP shooting of the year occurred when an adult male brown bear looking for a meal got into a goat pen in Homer, according to Selinger.

“In all, we had a total of 17 DLPs last year, seven females and 10 males, ranging in age from yearlings to adults,” Selinger said.

Last year was also when Michael Oswalt, of Anchorage, shot a brown bear sow — without provocation — on July 31 near the Russian River fishing area, orphaning her three cubs.

Oswalt not only didn’t inform the proper authorities, but also left the carcass rotting in the woods — an action that enraged residents and visitors.

Oswalt was eventually caught and charged by authorities, and at least two of the sow’s three cubs survived.

“We’re not sure what become of the third bear, but two of them — a female and a male with a limp — continue to hang around that area all summer and fall,” Selinger said.

These two cubs, now a year older, have already been seen this year.

“I recently received a report that someone saw the male with the limp, then a few days later someone called to say they saw the two of them together, “ Selinger said.

Bear reports are beginning to pick up all over the peninsula, according to Selinger.

“We were a little delayed with the cold spring we’ve had, but now the bears are definitely coming out,” he added.



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