The latest victim of an Alaska bear attack has been jailed.
Anchorage Police identified her as 58-year-old Christine Chalp, who was in a tent jumped by a bear in Alaska’s largest city on the Fourth of July.
And that’s just the beginning of this strange story.
Police say they got a report the bear was “on top of a tent, possibly with a person inside,” in the city’s Centennial Park early on the morning of July 4. There is a campground near the north edge of the park, but it doesn’t appear Chalp was in the campground.
Police reports indicate she was camped out in the woods on the southern edge of the park.
When officers went to investigate the reported bear attack, they found “a crumpled tent with a sleeping bag inside,” but nothing else, according to their reports.
“The black bear had left the scene,” they reported. “Food and trash were scattered around the tent. Officers attempted verbal contact without success.”
Finally, they “poked” the tent and sleeping bag, and, they said, “Chalp poked her head out. She told officers she was playing dead to prevent the bear from harming her. She said she wasn’t injured.”
Playing dead is a recommended tactic for those attacked by grizzly bears. It is not recommended for black bears. People who have played dead around black bears have been eaten. The state has had two deadly black bear attacks this year.
Police reported that after they made sure Chalp was OK, they ran her through their computer and “discovered Chalp had a misdemeanor failure to appear warrant for disorderly conduct. She was arrested and remanded to the Anchorage Jail.”
At least, she will be safe from bears there.
“Chalp was also cited for feeding of game due to the food and trash in the area and failure to appear” in court on other charges, police said.
Those charges just added to the problems facing Chalp, who last September legally changed her name from the earlier Tina Chaffin. Alaska court records indicate Chaffin/Chalp already owes the Municipality of Anchorage thousands of dollars in unpaid fines dating back to the 1990s.
She is not, however, the first person to find it difficult to live in Anchorage parks home to a healthy population of bears.
Only two years ago, a homeless man living in a tent camp in the same area used a home-made spear to kill a yearling black bear that had been raiding camps there along with a cooperative sow that was apparently its mother. The nature of the confrontation, which harkened back to pre-White contact when the spear was the only tool the first Alaskans had to defend themselves against bears, made national news.
“After several encounters with the animals, the homeless people staying in the six-tent camp were becoming increasingly worried about their safety,” Peter Holley wrote in the Washington Post. “One of the camp’s members — a 49-year-old father named David Tandler — decided to take action before the animals had a chance to harm his children.”
Tandler fashioned a tree branch into a shaft for a spear and duct-taped a machete to the end of the shaft.
“After he spotted a 1½-year-old bear cub was (sic) sniffing near a tent with someone inside, he attacked. ‘So he threw the spear and killed it,'” Holley wrote, quoting area wildlife biologist Dave Battle with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Battle expressed surprise the spear killed the bear and noted the state does not recommend taking on bears with spears. The bear killing was, however, ruled a legitimate defense of life and property (DLP) killing. Alaska laws specifically allows for DLP kills of dangerous animals.
But Tandler, like Chaffin/Chalp, was cited for illegally feeding wildlife because of all the garbage the bears had been getting into in the camp area. The attack sped city efforts to get illegal camps out of the woods.
Unfortunately, the problems with bears feeding on trash, dog food, bird seed and other edibles is not limited to homeless camps in Anchorage.
Police were this week warning residents citywide that it is “against the law to leave food and trash out in such a way it attracts wildlife, such as bears. Secure all garbage and other items, such as BBQ grills and fish guts (innards). Keep your yard clean. Use electronic fences for all livestock such as chickens and bee hives. Be a good steward of your community and encourage your neighbors to do the same.”
Anchorage has bear problems every summer, but there have been more than usual this year. Along with the young hiker who was killed by a black bear just southeast of the city after a mountain run, a mountain biker was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear just north of the city.
Three hikers were injured when attacked by a grizzly bear in the Eagle River bedroom community just outside of the city. A black bear barreled into a child’s room and quickly out on the Anchorage Hillside. And about a half dozen bears have now been killed in defense of life and property.