Killer bear dead


bird bear

One of the lone Bird Ridge bears/Andy Baker photo

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.

Stephen Herrero, the noted Canadian bear biologists, and associates in a 2011 study concluded that “most fatal black bear attacks were predatory.” 

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.






12 replies »

  1. Like many tragedies in Alaska, this tragedy follows a familiar Alaskan script: A tragedy happens. The news media quickly spews contradicting statements. The public is confused and doesn’t know what really happened. The authorities are also confused, but that doesn’t stop them from shooting anything that moves.

    Last summer it was the guy found dying at the new Campbell Creek Estuary Park. In typical Alaskan fashion, confusion and shooting soon followed. “It was a moose!” the news (ADN) said. Then 2 days later: “It was a bear!”, says the ADN. So a bear is killed. Then out comes the conclusion that it was likely a man with a hammer that beat the victim.

    Confusion, decisions based on confusion, followed by lots of gunfire. Afghanistan? Syria? Yemen? Nope (but close) … Welcome to Alaska.

    • Well Tim, perhaps you can enlighten us on the confusion experienced by the authorities in this case. While they didn’t know if their target bear was mortally injured that didn’t stop them from making a decision to make sure that was the case.
      I don’t consider that confusion, at all, and I suspect they were inundated with all sorts of advice on how to do their jobs. And that includes the drugstore types, like yourself, who wants to second guess their decision(s), no matter what they do.
      I am only speaking to this situation, as I’m not that familiar with the moose/bear situation.

  2. It does no harm to the black bear population to take four from this area. There are literally tens of thousands of these bear in Alaska. I say, thin them out in areas often frequented by humans. You would be surprised how quickly they would get the message that this place is not good for them.I know that this will perturb the bear lovers. But many of them have no experience with these dangerous pests. I’m pretty sure there is at least one family and possibly thousands more that agrees with me.

    • Craig,
      I am sure this is you responding (and if so, why aren’t these opinions stated in the writing above)….either way, it is BULLSHIT that 3 innocent bears were killed in this outcome….When I attended college in Vermont, there was a grass-roots campaign called “Don’t Jersey Vermont”….I believe the time has come for Alaskans to say: “Don’t Oregon Alaska”…somehow YUPPIES feel we should paved trails into the wilderness and exterminate all the “Keystone Species” in Alaska in the name of “Safety” for the masses. I for one do not agree with this modern “Brave New World” approach to game management. Just look at the Denali Wolf Packs (or should I say lack of remaining wolf packs) to see where this state is heading….The last brown bear in Colorado was shot and killed in Pagosa Springs and the species has never returned since….

  3. ADN states that 3 other bears were killed before they got the one they believed to be the problem bear. that the use of a helicopter was employed. Why didn’t DWC use tranquilizes? If they would have, they could have released the bears that were determined to be the bear they were wanting and when they got the problem bear they then could have euthanized it. Just a thought.

    • “Extremely steep, rugged, brushy terrain made the use of tranquilizer darts impractical,” This is their reasoning listed in the above article, allen.

  4. I’m glad F&G took this approach. Such a horrible tragedy, and nobody is to blame. They did nothing wrong. So sad for the family. Wish F&G would be proactive at Kincaid. Way too many moose living there. Does it take the loss of human life for common sense to prevail?

    • Thanks Bill, but i wounder if all 4 bears were in such terrain? this is not an uncommon situation for capture recapture that the department deals with on other data gathering projects.

      • I have no idea about where those 4 bears were shot but once the determination was made that darting was not practical and killing was the decision, there wasn’t any second guessing about that decision IMO.

  5. Got it. Thanks. You’re right about the clam-up. Damn irritating. Why don’t they see that a full account — within limits prescribed by concern for the family, friends and race participants — serves not just the public interest, but the agencies’ as well. I hate to be clichéd, but educating the public helps the public and eases (to some degree) the jobs of troopers, biologists, rangers, race officials and so on. Transparency is the best medicine. (Not to mention the fact that we’re all full of questions about this thing and crave the answers.)
    Finally, we’re left with the incredible sadness of this event. It reminds me of the death of Andrew Lekisch, whose loss was due not to a horrible ending as was Patrick’s but who was also a promising youngster enjoying the wild country, the freedom of his own body and the joy of its movement through challenging terrain. The only consolation — another cliché, I’m afraid but valid all the same — is that they died doing what they loved. (For those who don’t know, Andrew died falling over a cliff during a practice run along The Wedge in the Chugach Mountains directly east of the city.)
    Meanwhile, this is the third Anchorage race event that I know of that has been appallingly, tragically interrupted, or had threatened to be so, by animal attacks. I’m speaking of the grizzly attack on Petra Banks on Rover’s Run during a bike race some years ago, the put-down of a menacing bull moose at Kincaid Park during a juniors’ September footrace, also a few years ago, and now this. (There may be others that I don’t know about.) Any official for a race that moves through the wild lands around us who does not have the danger of animal attack uppermost in the guidance of and preparation for the participants — and contingency planning — should find another job. Danger of wild animals comes w/ the territory.

  6. Have any authorities said they are certain this boy was killed by the bear and not by a fall of some kind? I don’t recall reading anywhere (although I could have missed it) that the post-mortem showed without question that the bear killed the runner. Do you know if that statement has been made? It would be remarkable in the extreme if 4 bears were killed on a supposition. On the other hand, the bear that got shot was hanging around the kid as he lay either dead or comatose, and it would not move when confronted by others, according to what authorities said. So the bear had a clear interest in him. Still, what actually killed the boy?

    Incidentally, ADN reports that the recently wounded & now dead animal was an “estimated 180-pound adult male black bear.” You’re saying it was “near 250 pounds.” I’m not blaming anyone specifically, but I’ve found that, in general, the reporting on this incident has been shaky, one story after another leaving me with that icky residue of “I don’t know what the hell is going on here!”

    “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 …”
    — Methinks the click-baiters are quite busy these days.

    • Pete: no one knows yet how Patrick died, but the bear clearly “caused” the young man’s death. from the reports of the people who were on the scene waiting for the authorities to come shoot the bear, the bear was doing more than just standing by the body. there are some people pretty well traumatized by what happened up on the ridge.
      as to weights, the semi-news embargo that has surrounded this has made the reporting a mess as usually happens when officialdom clams up. in the absence of information, guesses and speculation fill the void.
      the individual who gave me the estimate said the bear had not been weighed and that it was about the size CSP rangers said, which was 250 pounds. so i went with that. i’d actually tend think 180 more likely. a lot of these bears shrink after shooting. but i had no basis on which to downsize the bear. and even now, i’d guess that there could be a 180-pounder among the four dead, and someone could have gotten their bears confused.

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