ANCHORAGE - Two young brown bears have been killed in the past two months: one by Fish and Wildlife officers, the other by a resident.
On Sunday, Shannon and Mike Gribbon saw a sow running away after the brown bear and her two cubs killed their pet llama. When one of the cubs came back, Mike Gribbon shot and killed it. Wildlife biologists say he was well within his right to do so.
“If a bear is actively at that moment threatening your life, the life of your family, or your pets or livestock, we try to get people to use all non-lethal means first, but then they legally can take lethal action,” said Jessy Coltrane, an area wildlife biologist.
Becky Clement lives just down the road from the Gribbons' place and is no stranger to bears herself.
“They’re on our decks, sleeping under our porch. When I go out I always look. We've had bears a lot,” said Clement.
She says her family expects to see wildlife in their Hillside neighborhood, but over the past ten years there have been more sightings than they’re comfortable with.
“That was one bear too many in the neighborhood. And I think it increasingly over the years has been getting worse and worse. I'm glad I don't have little kids or I could not let them outside to play unless I was out there with them,” said Clement.
Fish and Wildlife officers had to euthanize a young brown bear last month after it was getting too close to people at a pull-out along the Seward Highway. Biologists say they don’t like seeing bears killed, but sometimes that’s the only choice.
“It's a balancing act, and occasionally we run into a situation where a bear is doing something that's just not acceptable in a residential area and that bear has to get put down. It's disappointing and upsetting but no one wants to see their llama killed either. That was upsetting to the homeowners as well,” said Coltrane.
Each year about two brown bears are killed by wildlife agencies or residents. About 12 black bears are killed annually. Biologists say that’s because there are more black bears around the Anchorage area and they get into the most trouble by getting into garbage cans.
Biologists say homeowners should try other measures to get a bear to leave their property before they shoot to kill.
Alaska State Troopers say if a person shoots a bear that is not attacking that person’s life or property, the charge is “taking a bear out of season,” which carries a penalty of up to a year in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.