Garbage bear killed after damaging property in Saxman

A black bear in a tree in Mendenhall Valley last summer.
A black bear in a tree in the Mendenhall Valley in 2012. (Photo by Heather Bryant)

A black bear that broke through a garbage enclosure and into a truck at a Saxman family’s home was shot and killed by the homeowner Sunday evening.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Boyd Porter said there have been several bears reported in Saxman, moving through residential neighborhoods that are close to the forested areas and looking for food. The bear that was killed had been seen before, accompanied by two older cubs.

Porter said the bear had gotten into the home’s garbage previously, so the homeowners secured their garbage storage area with an extra latch.

“By that time, it had already had access to the garbage in the past and so it was able to rip through the plywood door they put up, and got access to the garbage in the cans,” he said.

While the bear was there, it caught a whiff of something even better than garbage.

“There was a deer in the back of a camper shell,” he said. “You can imagine, a pretty strong smell of fresh killed deer. The bear was able to get into the camper shell through the back and took the entire deer out.”

Porter said that shooting a bear on your property is allowed in certain situations.

“You’re not allowed to shoot a bear just because it’s getting in your garbage,” he said. “Garbage is not your property. But destroying property or threatening people’s lives, then you could defend yourselves if you had an area where you could safely shoot.”

Porter said safely shooting a bear is a problem in residential areas, which is why homeowners should first contact law enforcement. The Saxman homeowner did follow that protocol, and was given instructions on how to safely shoot the bear.

Porter said bears killed in defense of home become the property of the state, so he collected the bear’s carcass and it will be destroyed.

From photographs he’s seen, Porter said the two cubs left behind appear to be about 2 years old.

“We’re still working on that one. I’m trying to get a look at those cubs,” he said. “It’s likely that they will end up being killed in Saxman, just because they’re not used to foraging on their own. They’re used to following mom around. So, there’s probably two more bears that will end up being killed in that area.”

Porter said that at this time of year, bears are searching for more ways to fatten up before winter. To discourage bears from foraging in neighborhoods, he recommends ratchet straps on garbage can lids, and keeping other potential attractants as secure as possible.

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