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Brown Bear Shot and Killed on Kodiak Island

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A brown bear sow was shot and killed at the Old Harbor landfill on Kodiak Island on Monday, orphaning four cubs. Alaska State Troopers say the sow was shot in defense of life and property (DLP). The community’s residents are no strangers to trouble with the area’s numerous bears.

Around noon on Monday, the Kodiak brown bear — classified as a distinct subspecies from mainland Alaska brown bears — was shot after it charged multiple people, troopers reported.

Prior to being killed, the mother bear dug under the landfill’s electrical fence, entered the dump and began eating trash, something she had been doing at the landfill for several months, said Kodiak trooper Sgt. Eric Olsen.

Old Harbor’s tribal council received grant money to erect the electrical fence — in some spots two layers of fencing. The bear deterrent has been up for about a year, but some bears, including the sow, have refused to let the obstacle stop them, Olsen said.

“It will take the bears a couple years to become accustomed (to the fence),” Olsen said.

Old Harbor’s Village Public Safety Officer, members of the small town’s tribe, and landfill workers hazed the bear in an effort to get it to stop. The safety officer on previous occasions had approached the bear in his patrol vehicle with the sirens blaring. At other times, the bear was shot with rubber bullets, Olsen said. The methods worked in the past, troopers reported.

U.S. Marine Corps personnel located in Old Harbor also helped try to stop the sow by using heavy equipment to place large rocks in the holes the bear dug under both fences and through gravel to get inside the landfill.

Despite all the efforts toward dissuasion, the bear repeatedly entered the landfill, according to troopers. On Monday, it charged locals, landfill employees and Marines who approached it with a Humvee. And a volunteer with the community’s “bear protection team” ended up shooting the sow.

“The locals know the behaviors of bears in the area; killing it was a last resort,” Olsen said.

In accordance with DLP shootings, the sow’s skull and hide have been sent to Fish and Game in Kodiak.

The sow was found to be “very emaciated with no layers of fat, and she was blind in one eye.” The cubs haven’t been spotted at the landfill since the shooting, troopers reported.

Kodiak brown bears generally raise two cubs each year, so the extra cubs as well as the bear’s health likely stressed the animal until it became dangerous, Olsen said. “It was malnourished. It wasn’t getting a proper diet from the trash,” he said.

The sergeant added the sow could have been coming to the landfill since it was a cub. Its mother may have brought it there, and the bear eventually taught its own cubs to use the dump as a food source.

Olsen recalled the Old Harbor’s long struggle with the area’s many bears — there’s approximately one bear per square mile on the island. In the early 2000s, he said, there were so many bears the locals wouldn’t let their kids go outside. Then, the community began to proactively protect itself from bears. It established the bear protection team, a group that works to keep the community safe from the brown bears, avoiding defense of life and property shootings as much as possible, Olsen said.

Source: Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com

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