Bear shot after entering Deadhorse hotel

Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A bear that was well known to oil field workers is dead after wandering into a hotel in the oil field outpost of Deadhorse.

The 700-pound male grizzly, known as Toby, had entered the Prudhoe Bay Hotel through a door Monday evening, climbed a flight of stairs and looked into hotel rooms searching for food. The bear was shot at about 8:30 p.m. on the second floor of the hotel by a North Slope Borough public safety officer.

Officer Don Grimes shot the bear twice with a 12-gauge shotgun after the bear began walking down the narrow hallway toward him.

Grimes had been trying to shoo the animal toward an exit, when the bear darted into a hotel room, then reversed course, said hotel manager Joree Lawson. She had watched from the other end of the hall.

A man apparently took a picture from the stairwell nearest the bear, possibly frightening the animal further, said state biologist Dick Shideler.

When the bear was less than 10 feet away, Grimes had no choice but to fire his shotgun, Lawson said.

''It looked like he was going to charge,'' Lawson said. ''Toby was never aggressive, but I felt it could have gotten ugly.''

''I really can't make any comment other than to say that the decision was made and it was in protection of life,'' Grimes added later. ''It wasn't a fun one.''

Toby was the seventh Deadhorse bear in two years that has been killed after breaking into buildings in search of food. Five bears were killed last summer and two have been killed this year.

''Once they start this break-in stuff you can't let them continue that from a safety standpoint,'' said Shideler, who monitors oil-field bears for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The 10-year-old bear with silvery shoulder patches was orphaned at age 1 when its mother was struck by a truck, Toby lived out its life as one of about 45 bears monitored by state biologists in a research project.

News of Toby's death saddened Deadhorse regulars on Tuesday, said Les Dunbar, who runs the Prudhoe Bay Post Office and pins up photographs of local celebrity bears.

''Toby, he was the big boy up here -- he was dad to most of the babies,'' Dunbar said.

''He was the biggest boar that people saw in the oil field,'' said Becky Kelleyhouse, a wildlife technician working on the state's Prudhoe Bay Grizzly Project. ''He was fairly non-aggressive, and he was habituated to people. So people had a lot of pictures of him.''



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