Brown bear shot on Douglas Island — the first documented kill in decades

Update | 12:36 p.m. Wednesday

A homeowner shot and killed a brown bear on Douglas Island last week. It’s the first brown bear documented on the island in more than 40 years.

Sightings of brown bears are often reported but there’s been no proof – until now, said Ryan Scott, regional conservation supervisor for Alaska Department of Fish & Game.

An adult brown bear weighing at least 700 pounds was shot and killed by a homeowner near North Douglas Highway on May 25. Authorities ruled the killing justified in defense of life and property. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Wildlife Troopers)

“Over the years we’ve had reports of bears swimming around, being sighted in the water adjacent to Douglas and some other anecdotal information,” Scott said Wednesday. “Folks see a bear and they believe it is a brown bear, but we’ve never been able to confirm it.”

Authorities didn’t name the man who reported that he heard a racket outside his home about 6:30 a.m. May 25 near mile 5 of North Douglas Highway.

“The homeowner went out to scare the bear away, which is a normal thing for Juneau,” he said. “Instead of responding like we would normally expect, running away, essentially, the bear actually turned to face him. The homeowner felt like the bear was imminently going to come to him and he dispatched the animal.”

The homeowner reported the shooting shortly afterward.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers investigated the killing of the male bear, which reportedly weighed more than 700 pounds. The shooting was ruled justified.

“The wildlife troopers did visit the site and talked to the homeowner and looked around a little bit and it looked like the home was well-kept,” Scott said. “There were no noticeable attractants or things like that. It’s a little bit of a head-scratcher as to why the bear was as agitated as it was.”

Jacob Resneck, KTOO

Original post | 11:38 a.m. Tuesday

First confirmed brown bear on Douglas Island in decades killed

The first confirmed brown bear on Douglas Island in decades was killed last week in what state officials say was reported as a shooting in defense of life or property.

Tom Schumacher, a Douglas-based Fish and Game management coordinator, said the adult boar was killed at a residence near Mile 5 of the North Douglas Highway, across Gastineau Channel from Juneau. The homeowner, a commercial fisherman, was awakened by “a bear tearing up things behind his house,” according to Schumacher.

“He went outside with a rifle and intended to just yell at the bear,” Schumacher said. “When he did that, the bear looked at him, so he thought it was going to charge him.”

Alaska Wildlife Troopers visited the scene of the shooting afterward. Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said in an email that the bear was “black-ish” in color and the investigation indicated the shooting was appropriate.

“At this point, it is highly unlikely that a citation is warranted,” Peters wrote.

Schumacher said Douglas Island’s bear population is “not numerous.” Although visitors to the island’s west side, facing away from Juneau, have reported seeing brown bears, Schumacher said they’ve been difficult to identify in photos.

“We haven’t had a brown bear documented on Douglas Island since 1974,” Schumacher said.

That bear was also killed, by a hunter near Fish Creek, slightly farther north along the highway than Thursday’s shooting.

The hide and skull of the bear killed last week have been submitted to Fish and Game, Schumacher said, in accordance with state requirements for any defensive bear death. The remains are undergoing testing to be compared with other samples at Fish and Game in an attempt to determine whether the animal came from the mainland or nearby Admiralty Island – a 3-mile swim the bears can readily make.

“The homeowner told us he keeps a very clean yard, so why the bear was there and acting the way it was remains a mystery,” Schumacher said. “We don’t know where it came from or how long it’s been here.”

Schumacher said island-bound brown bear populations, including more than 1,000 estimated on Admiralty Island, are generally more abundant than mainland bears in Southeast Alaska. They also tend to be genetically distinct due to their isolation.

“New bears don’t go there and bears from there don’t generally leave,” Schumacher said. “They have a lot of salmon streams on them – there’s a lot to eat, so those islands tend to be particularly productive.”

Editor’s note: This story has been republished with permission from the Alaska Dispatch News.

Chris Klint, Alaska Dispatch News

Jacob Resneck, CoastAlaska

Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director based in Juneau. CoastAlaska is our partner in Southeast Alaska. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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