Another grizzly dead

subadult grizzly.JPG

A sub-adult grizzly/Alaska Department of Fish and Game photo

A young, Bird Creek grizzly bear that concluded the easiest way to obtain salmon was to take them from fishermen is dead.


Chugach State Park chief ranger Ben Corwin shot the bear Saturday after pepper spray proved ineffective in driving it away from a hugely popular fishery along the Seward Highway.

Problems with the grizzly along the angler-lined creek have been increasing for several days, Corwin said in a telephone interview. Despite approaching people to within 10 feet and being pepper sprayed, he said, the bear just didn’t want to retreat to the closed-to- fishing and angler-free part of the creek only about 400 yards upstream from a highway bridge that regularly thunders with traffic.

After the bear was sprayed Saturday, Corwin said, it went and grabbed a salmon a fishermen was trying to pull to shore and stole it off the angler’s hook.

When the ranger arrived on the scene, the bear was in a standoff with a group of anglers who didn’t want to give up their fish. Anglers are advised to keep bears from getting their salmon if at all possible because once bears learn they can get fish from people they will keep doing it.

Several people posting at the Facebook page of the Alaska Outdoor Journal indicated this bear had already learned that bad habit.

“It had really become a public safety issue,” Corwin said.

Bird Creek hosts a state-enhanced salmon fishery that takes place on about 500 yards of water between closed-to-fishing signs and Turnagain Arm only 25 miles from downtown Anchorage.  The entire fishery is visible from the highway where the traffic regularly flows heavy, and the bears have the creek drainage largely to themselves upstream from where anglers are often lined up shoulder to shoulder.

Despite the massive human presence, some bears have decided over the years that it is easier to take fish from humans than to fish for themselves. A pair of sub-adult grizzlies were a problem for most of the season last year, and Corwin thinks the bear he shot and killed Saturday might have been one of that pair.

He’s hopeful the other has gone back into the wild, although there have been reports of two young grizzlies in the area again this year.

“The one I shot today still had pepper spray in its face,” Corwin said. The pepper spray made even more difficult the job of skinning the bear to salvage the hide. The state saves the hides of bears killed in defense of life or property and annually sells them at auction.

The shooting, which comes only about week after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game executed a family of grizzly bears in the Hiland Road area of Eagle River north of the state’s largest city, drew immediate online criticism from some who protested that bear was just “trying to eat.”

But the public danger of food-conditioned bears is real.

“If a bear is able to get food from a human, it will likely repeat the behavior, may become
dangerous to humans and may need to be killed,” warns Fish and Game.

Bears are big enough and powerful enough that they can injure or kill people without really trying. One person has died in the Anchorage area already this year.

An Eagle River hiker was killed by a bear June 20, which is what led to the later shooting of the sow and two cubs in the area where he died. DNA has shown the bear that killed 44-year-old Michael Soltis and then buried his remains as if planning to consume them later was a sow, possibly with cubs.

DNA also showed Fish and Game that gunners shot the wrong sow and cubs, but at least two other family groups have been reported in the Hiland Road area. Fish and Game authorities have said that they are prepared to kill the other sows if they can find them.

There has been a lot of bear activity around Anchorage this year, and some have begun to wonder whether regionally weak salmon runs are playing a role. Scientists studying bears in coastal British Columbia in 2013 concluded weak salmon runs can leave bears feeling stressed.

In a study published at Plus One, they reported that the cortisol levels in the hair of the bears clearly showed the bears were tense. Whether that would make them more aggressive towards humans is unclear, but the scientists noted “well-described social interactions over access to salmon often lead to aggressive encounters (between bears) and the establishment of dominance hierarchies. An influx of bears from the interior to salmon spawning streams in the fall would make the social dynamics particularly intense.”

They also warned that “if salmon returns consistently decline in the future, grizzly bears that do not obtain enough salmon might experience chronically elevated cortisol and testosterone via increased nutritional and/or social stress, with unknown, but probably adverse, fitness costs.”

Behaviour changes in grizzly and black bears in times of food shortages has not been well studied, but scientists studying polar bears last year reported in the Wildlife Society Bulletin “that nutritionally stressed adult male polar bears were the most likely to pose threats to human safety. “

Polars bears, however, are carnivores while grizzly and black bears are omnivores, which can survive on vegetation though coastal bears come to covet fat-rich salmon.

“It is important to recognize that nutrition can be a contributing factor to stress in wildlife but in and of itself, nutritional stress is not a sufficient explanation for predatory behavior by a bear on humans,” concluded biologists investigating a deadly 2010 grizzly attack in Montana.

Whether hunger would overpower a bear’s normal fear of humans and lead it to push boundaries in order to obtain salmon is less clear.







12 replies »

  1. Found a police forum that states as many as 1 out of 6 people sprayed by pepper spray will have little to no effect on them.
    I was pretty immune to the stuff when I was working as a city medic and many times the officers would ask me to enter the “cellblock” where the patient/criminal was handcuffed and subdued by pepper spray since they knew it was easier on my nose.
    Many cops at the time thought my lack of sensitivity to the spray was due to the large amount of hot wings that I ate?

  2. Many years ago I sprayed a Griz on the North Slope with an entire canister of bear spray. It turned away for a few steps and then came back. It wasn’t acting aggressive but kept coming closer. Finally we shot a rifle at its feet and it got the message and was not seen again. I always carry a suitable firearm. And I do not believe a 44 mag is suitable. If you insist on carrying one I suggest that you file off the front sights.

      • Bill…You sound like a man with extensive experiences putting thing in his bum, nd thinking about it. With a comment like that its clear how you spend your time… If you dont understand the real danger with bear, leave Alaska.

  3. So, I just want to make sure I got this right – this grizzly liked red pepper with his salmon?

    • possibly. pepper has been shown to be a bear attractant and a bear repellent. they don’t like it sprayed in their eyes or noses, but do like it as a seasoning. me, too.

      • I was sorta being funny but, I wonder if the whole “bear spray being 96% effective” is actually an accurate number or is it an inflated number by Enviros to provide a “reassurance” to people while “sparring the rod”? I remember a guy who was forced to shoot a grizzly bear upon him and the Ranger said “I really wish he didnt shoot the bear”. I realize it does work and under ideal circumstances it might prevent an attack but, the numbers also state a bear has never left the area after being sprayed. Seems spray had little effect on this bear.
        0 – Spray
        1 – 12ga

        “The one I shot today still had pepper spray in its face,” Corwin said. The pepper spray made even more difficult the job of skinning the bear to salvage the hides.

  4. Personally witnessed an angler hand toss a fish to this bear Thursday night. I subsequently took a bunch of video of him flush all the bipeds off the creek looking for more easy handouts.

    • Would have been good to catch video of the loser feeding the bear who helped seal the bears fate too.

  5. Fish and Game, in all their wisdom, are coming around to where we were 60 years ago. People ate moose close to town. My uncles hauled a moose home in a taxi cab. The family had meat. If there aren’t any moose there won’t be calves for bears to eat first thing after coming out of their dens. If bears showed up they were shot. In those times kids played outdoors and their mothers didn’t worry about bears. There weren’t any.

    What ever dummy came up with the idea that you manage the City of Anchorage’s streams for fish like you would Bristol Bay, creating conflicts over the allocation of the resource–eg. how many fish are the bears entitled to? This insured F&G employment forever to manage the conundrum. 586,000 square miles of bear habitat isn’t enough. They want bears in Anchorage too.

    They are doing such a good job that now we have man eating grizzlies inside the city limits. So, what are they doing? Shooting grizzlies. Its about time.

    • You can’t have people hunting or shooting bears around Anchorage for a very simple reason. Many, many more stupid people now live in Anchorage, compared to 60 years ago. Give stupid people a reason to shoot guns even more in or around Anchorage and more people, stupid and smart, will die from errant gunfire and wounded bears. The answer is to make people less stupid around bears. And not more trigger happy. But yeah, this will be hard to do. Because this is America, where stupid and guns go hand in hand.

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