Juneau man says handy rifle, neighbor saved him from mauling

Posted: Monday, June 24, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- An old-timer who has publicly called for the killing of troublesome bears says a friend recently saved him from a mauling by shooting a bear that was approaching him.

Rudy Maier said his friend killed the black bear a few feet from Maier's home earlier this month. The friend used a rifle that Maier keeps loaded near his front door.

Maier, 66, said he was returning from visiting another friend in a trailer on his property when he heard growling, looked up and saw the bear coming at him. The bear was between him and his front door.

''I was only about 10 feet away and he's clicking his teeth and growling. If (the rifle) hadn't been there, I'm quite sure I'd have been mauled,'' Maier said.

Sgt. Steve Hall, a wildlife protection trooper in Juneau who investigated the shooting, said it was a justifiable defense of life and property, as the law allows. Hall wouldn't say who shot the bear.

But Pat Costello, a photographer who runs a Web site about the bear/garbage problem in Juneau, juneaubears.com, said discharging firearms in neighborhoods is a major concern.

''He does live in a more rural setting than some, but I think it's a bad message for people to get -- that if they have a bear in their yard, they should shoot it,'' Costello said.

Maier called the police shortly after the shooting. Sgt. Hall visited the site the next day and examined the bear, an adult male weighing about 230 pounds. Hall said Maier's garbage was secured in an enclosure, as required by Juneau's city code.

Maier said a black bear had torn open his wooden garbage enclosure last summer, and the state Department of Fish and Game subsequently live-trapped a bear on his property.

He rebuilt the garbage enclosure using strong bolts to hold 2-by-6s to 4-by-4 posts. He put thick crossbars over the gates.

Maier says his efforts to comply with Juneau's garbage ordinance show that securing trash doesn't keep bears away.

''I've gone out of my way to save the bears, to go along with everything,'' Maier said. ''It's just a matter of time before someone caught in this situation is mauled or killed.''

In a letter to the editor of the Juneau Empire published in March, Maier said that in the past when bears were trouble ''we got rid of them.''

In an interview Saturday, Maier said he was not a bear-hater.

''I love to watch animals. I don't like to shoot them. (But) there's a whole lot of this stuff that goes too far, with 'save the bear, save the bear,' until someone gets killed.''

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