A sow and her two cubs were shot by Sitka police on Aug. 3 around 5:30 p.m. on Johnston St., near Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. The three animals had been active throughout Sitka for the past month.
The decision to euthanize the bears was made between the Sitka Police Department and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game after authorities concluded that the bears had become a public safety hazard.
Sergeant Brad Wheeler says the bears had tried to enter someone’s home the night before and again on Aug. 3, not long before the police responded.
“We had a call that they were in somebody’s garage getting into trash, because I guess they had their garage door open for whatever reason, Wheeler said. “And they actually went into their garage right in the middle of day and started tearing stuff out of their trash in the garage.”
Wheeler says police shot the bears in front of a house on Johnston Street. Then the homeowner came out.
“He was watching us through the window the whole time,” Wheeler said. “And he came out and was like ‘Oh, thank god you guys showed up because just before you got here, one of them was on my back porch and it was pushing against the glass windows so hard. I thought it was gonna break.’”
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says it had been in contact with police often as the bears roamed area neighborhoods.
Biologist Stephen Bethune says that while bear activity in Sitka happens almost every year, the public can help avoid the destruction of the animals.
“These events are always related to improper garbage handling. And that’s what led these bears in the town and will continue to in the future, unless people handle their garbage responsibly,” Bethune said.
Bethune collected tissue samples from the animals, including a tooth from the sow to determine her age. He says that although she appeared skinny, it’s not unusual for a sow to be in this condition while nursing two yearling cubs
Bethune says the hides were not good enough to preserve for sale through a statewide auction. And although the Raptor Center has taken bear carcasses in the past to feed to birds, they already had enough feed on hand.
The bear carcasses were disposed of at the Jarvis St. transfer station.