Bear charges boy outside his Haines home

A bear charged Walther Jim, a sixth-grader who lives in Haines, outside of his home. (Photo courtesy Shannon Caton)

A Haines family got their Halloween scare early this year when a large bear charged a young man all the way up to the family’s front porch. The incident is among the record number of bear interactions this season.

Walther Jim’s mom had four pounds of meat simmering in pasta sauce on the stove when she asked him to run outside and lock the car doors. She didn’t want bears to break into her Toyota RAV4.

But when he stepped outside, Jim, who is in sixth grade, said he almost got attacked by a bear.

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“The bear was, like, 10 feet away from me, looking at me and I jumped, and I tried to open the door. And then it started to run after me. And I got inside the house, and then I told my mom that there was a bear,” he said.

Shannon Caton says her son burst back into the house.

“He came inside, slammed the door. And you know, I got Amazon shipments so they were just in a pile,” she said. “I had to start the spaghetti sauce and he tripped over the boxes, and ran into the corner of the cabin and said ‘the bear’s right there.’ Literally like, you know, nibbling his fingertips. I was like, ‘no way.’ I opened the door and then he was trying to come in.”

She said the bear swiped at her, and then she did what moms do.

“Just stared him right in the eyes and maniac growled and screamed. Just lunged at him to get him to back away and slam the door and then grab the shotgun, and then my dog chased him a little bit but he wasn’t backing down. I just unloaded for four rounds of the 12-gauge buckshot.” Caton said.

Caton says bears come by her place at 31.5 mile all the time. But in her six years out there, she’s never seen one that aggressive.

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The Haines Borough Police Department has recorded 420 bear calls this year. Caton’s was one of 17 last week alone. The agencies and residents have shot at least 25 bears in defense of life and property this season.

The Haines Borough is collecting data about damages incurred by bears this year. That’s to be proactive with elected officials and agencies in preparation for next year.

Caton’s guess as to why bear behavior has changed is the same as the state’s Department of Fish and Game and the Wildlife Troopers—she doesn’t think they have enough food.

“But for him to charge like that just a few feet from our home. Like, what if my son tripped?” she said.

Caton and Jim are fine. Caton has her dog trained to scare off bears. So the new rule in her house is the dog goes out for five minutes before anyone else does.

It’s a good safety measure, but the larger problem — hungry bears that aren’t afraid to approach humans and occupied homes — doesn’t have an easy solution.