An Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) male brown bear, known as Joe Boxer, came across something kind of odd at his home along Turnagain Arm last weekend. It was another bear, but this one was covered with vibrant designs and painted berries.

It wasn’t real.

In late-June, 14 fiberglass bears, originally white, were brought to Downtown Anchorage. Local artists were commissioned to paint them as part of a project sponsored by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership and the Anchorage Bear Education Committee. Once completed, the pieces were to be delivered around the Anchorage area.

On Sunday, AWCC finally got theirs.

Painted by Girdwood artist Dawn Gerety, the theme of AWCC’s piece is “things bears eat,” executive director Mike Miller said. The once plain bear is now covered in Alaska bear-grub, like berries and salmon.

Not long after the artwork was delivered, Miller said, it was placed near Joe Boxer – a former Willow brown bear that was orphaned after his mother was shot and killed.

Miller said Joe Boxer did exactly what most bears would do in an unfamiliar situation.

“Whenever we bring in props, like a tent or something, they usually go up and approach it very cautiously,” Miller explained. “They know they don’t understand. They will circle and pounce on it with their front two paws and jump.”

It didn’t take long for Joe Boxer to figure it out.

“He pounced on it and knew it wasn’t real,” Miller said.

In an effort to preserve the piece of art, the fake bear was moved. Miller said Joe Boxer would “bust it up.”

AWCC plans to get future use out of the large piece of artwork. According to Miller, the nonprofit hopes to use the fake bear in parades and make it available to visitors for photos.

Megan Edge can be reached by email, on Twitter and Facebook.

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