Skagway Police dispatched a black bear that had been wandering around Skagway since Thanksgiving.
For the past several weeks, there had been reports of a small black bear roaming around town and that he had looked confused about his surroundings.
While Skagway has seen bears in town before, bears being spotted this late in the season is an abnormality.
The bear, which was initially thought to be younger, was determined to have likely been born last year, according to Carl Koch, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).
“It turns out he was extremely emaciated and only 45 pounds,” Koch said.
Due to the atypical year of crops and fish, the bear most likely had a harder time getting food, according to Koch.
Ray Leggett, Skagway chief of police, explored all options to take care of the bear, including trapping and relocation.
Since the arrival of the bear in Skagway, the police department made attempts to work with Alaska Fish and Game and the Wildlife Troopers to foster the bear in a different location.
While the Skagway Police was looking to make relocation a possibility, Koch said that wouldn’t have been likely to happen.
The facilities that accept black bears not only fill up their spaces fast, but also typically look for cubs as a priority.
Initially, the bear was spotted wandering near the Pullen Creek Rv Park, but he came more into the residential areas of town as days passed.
“The cub had moved into the front yards of residences full of apples,” according to a post from the Skagway Police Department.
Due to the bear being in an area with young children and pets, the police made efforts to haze it to a different location, but the bear was determined to stay in the area with the apple trees.
“(The bear) became aggressive by growling and charging the officer attempting to haze him, which ultimately resulted in him being dispatched,” said the police.
After the bear was dispatched, the body was sent to ADF&G.
“We hated, hated having to do this,” Leggett said.
While the bear didn’t attack anyone in town, there have been other occurrences that show just how dangerous interactions with bears can be.
Valerie Theoret, A Yukon mother, and her 10-month-old daughter, Adele Roesholt, were killed by a grizzly bear on November 26, according to a report
from the BBC.
Theoret was staying in a cabin 250 miles north of Whitehorse during her maternity leave with her husband, Gjermund Roesholt. Roesholt shot and killed the bear upon returning home from trapping, according to the BBC.
There have been two other fatal bear attacks in Alaska this year.
There are things that Skagway residents can do to mitigate the risk of bears coming into town and staying, as the black bear did.
First and foremost is to not interact with any bear. While reports on the Facebook groups Skagway Swap and the Skagway Bulletin Board had noted locations of where the bear currently was, continued interaction with a bear can cause it to become more comfortable with humans and embolden it to go into higher population areas.
In addition, bears are wildlife and inherently unpredictable. Going near a bear is not recommended for reasons of personal safety. Even if a bear is a cub, it
still can be lethal.
Bears are naturally shy but can be attracted to humans because of food or garbage, according to ADF&G. Due to this, it’s important that residents properly seal their trash so as to not attract wildlife.
In addition, it was likely attracted to the fruit trees in town because of a bear’s inclination to go after natural food, according to Koch.
“If there’s food available, bears will stay out longer,” Koch said.
For more information on bears and how to handle bears and other wildlife in Alaska, visit the ADF&G website at www.adfg.alaska.