2017 one of Anchorage's worst years for bears
This year was a bad one for bears in the Anchorage area -- in fact, biologists are calling 2017 one of bruins' worst.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Dave Battle said there were more bear calls in 2017 than he could ever remember getting since starting the job several years ago, including fatal maulings.
June was the worst month. On June 14, three teens were injured after they surprised a brown bear with cubs on a trail near the Eagle River Campground. Fortunately, none of their wounds were life-threatening -- but what would happen just four days later shocked the community.
On June 18, 16-year-old Patrick Jack Cooper had just finished the Bird Ridge Race and was on his way back down when he went off the trail and encountered the bear that would attack and kill him.
"We were able to determine that it was a black bear that remained in the area where the young man died," said Chugach State Park ranger Tom Crockett. "The indications are this was a predatory rather than a defensive attack."
It was the first fatal bear mauling in the Municipality of Anchorage in more than 20 years; even more unusual, Battle said, is that the killing involved a black bear.
But the very next day there would be another fatal mauling, this time in the Interior. Erin Johnson grew up in Eagle River, but she died working near the Pogo Mine. The 27-year-old biologist was attacked by a black bear, in what Battle said was an almost unbelievable coincidence.
"Two within one day of each other," Battle said. "It's kind of the equivalent of lighting striking in the same place twice."
The month's final mauling happened on June 24, on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. James Fredrick was riding his bike with a friend on base when he got between a brown bear and cub. The bear ripped Fredrick from his bike and attacked him. Fredrick said the only thing that saved his life was his friend's bear spray, which eventually sent the sow on its way.
Battle said 2017 saw 34 bears shot dead within the municipality, four times more than 2016. Battle said half were killed by citizens who said they were defending life or property. The others were shot by rangers, police, or wildlife biologists.
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