Fish and Game is looking for a black bear that followed and charged people in Anchorage park

The wooden sign at Russian Jack Springs Park of DeBarr Road.
The Alaska Depatment of Fish and Game said Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, that it’s searching for an aggressive black bear in Russian Jack Springs Park. (Tegan Hanlon/Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Friday that it’s searching for a troublesome black bear in East Anchorage’s Russian Jack Springs Park. The bear has recently gained a reputation for charging people and following kids at camp.

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Six-year-old twins Ethan and August Shroyer remember yelling when they spotted a black bear last Wednesday at day camp.

“I tried to be brave,” Ethan said, “but my bones were shaking like I was scared.”

Ethan and August were among about 10 campers and an adult guide who encountered the black bear out on the trail at Russian Jack Park.

Erin Kirkland, the site director of Into the Woods Alaska camp, said the campers grouped together and yelled, just like they’ve learned to do. The bear ran away, and the campers walked in the opposite direction.

But then, the animal looped around and found the campers a second time. It ambled out of the woods and all the children saw it. It came toward them. 

A drawing with a blue crayon by a young child that shows a bear and three stick-figure people.
Into the Woods Alaska campers had time to write or draw about their run-in with a black bear at Russian Jack Park on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. The campers are age 5 to 7. This is one camper’s interpretation of what happened. (Erin Kirkland photo)

Kirkland said the guide had her bear spray ready.

“She said, ‘Okay, we’re gonna fight back with our voices,’” Kirkland said. “And that’s exactly what these kids did. They fought back using their voices. And for a group of five to seven year olds, I was pretty impressed.”

Ethan said the bear sprinted away.

“The bear ran so fast, he was so scared,” Ethan said. “There was dust behind him. He had a dust butt.” 

The repeated run-ins with the bear were part of the reason that Into the Woods Alaska decided to move its camp out of Russian Jack to another park. In an email to parents, an owner of the camp said they were feeling “leery” of the woods and said the bear appeared to have learned it can “follow groups of humans.”

Fish and Game wildlife biologist Dave Battle said he has gotten numerous reports about the bear.

“We had two or three reports on the 16th and then we’ve had a report every couple of days since then,” he said. “It’s actually been reported to us that it charged people a couple of times.”

Battle said Fish and Game continues to search for the black bear. He said he thinks homeless camps in the area are keeping the bear around. He advised people to carry bear spray or another deterrent if they’re using Russian Jack Park.

Reach reporter Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8447.