Wide-awake bear meets sad end

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A hungry brown bear's search for easy pickings led it to homes along Skyline Drive in Homer a couple weeks ago. An area resident brought the aging bruin's aggressive behavior to an end Dec. 4.

"It was shot in defense of life and property by a homeowner out there," said Thomas McDonough, wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Homer.

Prior to the shooting, McDonough was notified of the bear's presence.

"I heard from different people that live out there that they had seen brown bear tracks for quite awhile," McDonough said of the area west of Ohlson Mountain Road turnoff.

The stories McDonough heard included details of problems the bear was causing.

"It was getting on people's porches, grabbing garbage, acting aggressive," he said. "(One individual) had the bear grab some garbage, he went to investigate it and it charged his vehicle."

Judging by the wear on the bear's teeth, McDonough estimated its age at more than 20 years.

"Usually a bear in its prime at the end of summer season will have several inches of subcutaneous body fat. This bear had none," McDonough said. "In this case, it was a very old bear, in poor condition who probably didn't have enough body reserves to make it through hibernation. Its only option was to keep trying to find more food."

The unusual part of the story is for a bear to still be active this late in the year, since most bears den up during the winter, according to the game biologist. However, this isn't the only bear that's been seen.

"We did have a bear out on West Hill about a month ago," said Alaska State Trooper Travis Bordner. That bear was attracted to bird feeders, Bordner said.

The lesson is to keep wildlife attractants to a minimum, McDonough and Bordner said.

"The fact is that even in December folks tend to get even more lax about securing their garbage and other bear attractants assuming bears are in their dens," McDonough said. "It's really a behavior that people need to fix 12 months a year."

Bordner agreed.

"We've got to remember that we live in bear country," he said.

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