Someone appears to be poisoning bears near Sitka’s Sawmill Creek Road. A young male found dead earlier this month may be the latest victim.
Bears venturing into populated areas are sometimes killed in defense of life and property.
The state Fish and Game Department’s Phil Mooney says the 475-pound, four- to five-year-old brown bear was definitely not shot.
“There are no wounds on the bear, visible wounds on the outside. So the trauma took place in another manner. It could be poison,” he says.
He says the bear was found on top of bags of garbage it took from nearby homes.
Brown bears are omnivorous. So they have, at times, consumed rat poison, radiator fluid or other deadly substances.
Mooney says this time, it wasn’t random.
“I think it’s intentional. We’ve had a number of bears in that vicinity, since 2005, that have kind of died like this,” he says.
How many? Four, he says.
So, would it be accurate to say this could be one in a series of bears poisoned in that area?
“Yes, we believe that’s been the situation in that particular area for quite a while,” Mooney says.
He’s referring to a stretch of Sawmill Creek Road between Jamestown Bay and Whale Park.
Mooney says the bear was in pretty bad shape by the time he got to it.
He couldn’t do a full necropsy, but collected samples of blood and urine that he sent off for testing.
He has results from other bears that died in the area and will check for a connection. He also said garbage found at the scene could lead to action against its owner. But that would likely be for improper storage, not poisoning.
Mooney says this bear was one of a small number active in town this year.
“Sitka’s pretty lucky that we don’t get a lot of instances of bears breaking into buildings. We had one bear that pulled a screen out of a window earlier this year and tried to pull itself up to get a fresh pizza that had just come out of the oven and was sitting on the counter. And that was fairly unusual,” he says.
That bear was killed.
Mooney says three to four young bears have done most of this year’s trash-raiding, with an occasional older male passing through.
He says the bear season is nearing its end. But some will still be around for a while.
“Most of those guys around here have moved on. Typically, around the 15th of October, a lot of the sub-adults that are still with a sow, and cubs of the year, are moving up to their den sites and get settled in. But you’ll still have some sub-adult males and you’ll still have a couple of the big guys that will poke around for probably another month or month and a half,” he says.
He reminds residents to continue containing their garbage properly.