The bear that killed 16-year-old runner Patrick “Jack” Cooper is believed to be among one of four bears the Alaska Department of Fish and Game shot and killed in the Chugach Mountains southeast of Anchorage on Tuesday evening.
The adult, male bear of 180 pounds had a broken jaw that looked to have been caused by a shotgun slug, Ken Marsh, spokesman for the Division of Wildlife Conservation, said Monday in revealing the overnight bear hunt.
A Chugach State Park ranger on Sunday reported that he shot the bear as it fed on or tried to feed on the body of Cooper. The animal’s stomach has been sent to the state medical examiner to check for human remains.
Marsh said the decision to launch the Tuesday hunt employing a helicopter and fixed wing aircraft came after a ground search for the wounded bear found nothing on Monday. Marsh described the decision, which is likely to be controversial, as a collective determination made by the wildlife division.
It reflected concerns about public safety on one of the most popular hiking trails in Chugach State Park. The Bird Ridge Trail about 25 miles southeast of Anchorage is daily hiked by dozens and on weekends sometimes by hundreds. A massive parking lot sits near the bottom of the trail.
And Herrero went farther in later interviews, noting that some black bears had killed more than one human and describing one bear killed by a human in self-defense that was found to have human remains from a previous kill in its stomach.
The thought that a killer bear with a taste for human flesh might be loose along a busy trail near the summer busy communities of Bird and Indian along the busy Seward Highway helped drive the decision to launch a serious bear hunt.
Marsh said it was hoped the death of the bear that killed Cooper “might help to bring some closure for his family.”
All of the lone, adult black bear that were killed were found in close proximity to the scene of the attack, a state press release said.
“Extremely steep, rugged, brushy terrain made the use of tranquilizer darts impractical,” it added.
The lone, adult black bears are not the only bears to have been seen along Bird Ridge. On Sunday, when mountain racers swarmed the trail for the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb, there were reports of at least one grizzly and a black bear sow with cubs.
None of those bears were targeted. Predatory grizzly bears are even rarer than predatory black bears, and black bear sows with cubs are the least dangerous bears in the woods, according to the Herrero study.
Correction: The weight of the bear in this story has been updated from an earlier version.