A sow brown bear stands over the moose it killed
in the driveway of Gary and Terri Lyon's Skyline
Drive home in Homer Sunday morning. Bears are
awake and looking for food.
Photos courtesy of Gary and Terr
Low rumblings awoke Gary Lyon about 6:30 a.m. Sunday. His first thought was that Bonzer, his dog, was entertaining company on the deck of the Skyline Drive home where Lyon and his wife, Terri, live in Homer.
Lyon was correct; the sounds were from an animal. But it wasn’t his dog. It was a moose in a life-and-death battle with a grizzly. The moose lost.
“I looked out the window and to my astonishment
there were huge chunks of moose hair scattered up
the driveway,” Lyon said. “Then I saw
these two big animals a mature sow brown bear
that had this cow moose in its death grip. They were
in the midst of the struggle.”
Lyon woke up his wife and they began taking pictures of what was happening.
“The bear got (the moose) down and kind of dragged it maybe 40, 50 feet from our deck, alongside our boat,” Lyon said.
The bear drags the moose down the driveway before feasting on the creature's heart and liver. The bear disappeared into the woods before a trooper and biologist arrived.
What he and his wife witnessed next could have been a scene from a bone-chilling fright flick.
“The bear ripped (the moose’s) chest open, ripped out its heart, took the heart out and ate it. It was just like a horror movie,” Lyon said. “All the while it was kind of looking at us and looking at the woods. You could sense it wanted to get out of there. Then it got some or all of the liver, ripped that out and carried it off into the woods.”
The Lyons immediately reported the incident to the Alaska State Troopers. Within a short time Trooper Travis Bordner arrived with Thomas McDonough, assistant area biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
“You don’t get to see a lot of that kind of stuff, where somebody comes out and sees it happening,” said Bordner, who was relieved the bear was not in sight by the time he reached the scene.
“If the bear had still been on the moose, we might have had to wait it out a little bit. Public safety is public safety, but if we can avoid taking the animal, we’ll do that first.”
Bordner and McDonough reviewed the videos the Lyons took and have since published on the Web at www.youtube.com. From the pictures, McDonough estimated the bear was an adult female weighing 400 to 500 pounds.
“I didn’t see tracks of cubs and Gary didn’t see any cubs, but Gary said he thought he heard something down in the woods,” McDonough said. “As the bear was dragging the moose, it looked like it kept looking back there, which is the behavior you would expect from a female with dependent cubs.”
Even though the bear was gone by the time Bordner and McDonough arrived, McDonough suspects it hadn’t gone far.
“It was likely within earshot because it had just killed the moose and started feeding on it,” he said.
Bordner removed the moose carcass from the Lyons’ driveway. A local charity was contacted and harvested the remains. However, McDonough anticipated the bear would return to the area of the kill.
“This is a lean time for bears in the spring as they just emerge from their dens and don’t have a whole lot of body reserves. They need to put on weight quickly and forage quite a bit,” he said. “There was a pretty major food item right there, so I suspected it would come back, look for it and follow in the snow where it got drug off. But as soon as it investigates for awhile, it will move on to forage elsewhere.”
This is not the first bear sighting in the area, according to Bordner and McDonough.
“But this is a good reminder that we live in bear country and need to do everything we can to keep garbage and other human food items property stowed so bears don’t learn to forage around our homes,” McDonough said. “We obviously can’t fence off wildlife from coming in and around residences in Homer, but we can certainly prevent them from getting food rewards from humans and sticking around.”
Still, there are instances, like this one, where humans have nothing to encourage visits by bears.
“Gary obviously knew he lived in bear country because he didn’t have any food items out that would attract animals,” McDonough said.
Since Sunday, the Lyons have taken extra precautions around their home.
“We raked everything up and sprayed everything with bleach,” Lyon said of the area where the moose was killed. “And anything that resembled garbage we took to the dump.”
In spite of their efforts and just as McDonough predicted, the bear has returned.
“We saw it twice last night and this morning there were fresh bear tracks right up in our driveway,” Lyon said Monday morning.
Measurements of those tracks showed the hind feet to be 9 inches wide.
In addition to eliminating food attractants, McDonough urged caution when outdoors.
“As far as staying safe in bear country, be aware of your surroundings. If you’re going to walk in the woods or places where you don’t have a real good visual scan of the environment around you, make some noise. Preferably, walk with a friend or group of people,” McDonough said. “Bears are naturally pretty wary. If you give them an opportunity to know you’re coming, they typically give you a lot of space and move on.”
Bordner encouraged reporting instances of attractants being left out.
“If people are leaving garbage out, report it. You can do it anonymously. If I can find it, I can cite it, but I need to know about it,” Bordner said. “We can’t tell people enough that it’s our responsibility not to draw bears in. They’ll go where they want to go. It’s our responsibility not to cause them to have to be killed.”
To view the Lyons’ three-part video of the
bear and moose encounter, visit the Web at www.youtube.com
and search for “brown bear kills moose in driveway,
or click the following link to be taken directly to
the first video.
bear kills moose in driveway video, part 1
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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