A man shot and injured a sow grizzly bear in self-defense in a remote area northeast of Fairbanks after the bear charged him and his son. The injured bear, which had a cub, fled. Despite search efforts by Wildlife Troopers and a helicopter, the sow remains at large.
The incident took place late Monday night in an area about seven miles up Chena Hot Springs Road. According to a dispatch from the Alaska State Troopers, a man and his son were walking in the remote area near Smallwood Trail when they encountered the bear with a cub. The sow charged, prompting the adult to shoot it with his .44 magnum revolver. The shot injured the bear but did not kill it, and the animal ran away, according to troopers.
Two wildlife troopers and the HELO 2 helicopter searched for the wounded bear for several hours but were unable to locate it. The bear’s last known location is northeast of Smallwood Trail.
A preliminary investigation determined that the man shot the sow legally in defense of life and property, according to trooper spokesperson Austin McDaniel.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, under Alaska law bears may be killed in defense of life or property (DLP) if the attack was not provoked and if you have done everything else to protect yourself. In these situations, it is better to kill the animal rather than wound it, McDaniel said.
"Wounding an animal is never ideal, however, if an animal is initially wounded after shooting it, it is best for the person to attempt to kill the animal if possible for the animal's sake and so that it can be salvaged," he explained. Animals taken in defense of life or property must be salvaged and turned into the Department of Fish and Game.
When in bear country, "It's always a good idea to make lots of noise" so as not to startle wildlife, McDaniel said. Individuals should also carry either bear spray or a firearm.
Although it is not always possible, to prevent DLP situations Fish and Game recommends that people remain calm throughout a bear encounter. Never approach the bear and, if the bear is not aware of you, quietly leave in the direction from which you came. If the bear does notice you, prepare your deterrent (such as bear spray or gun), look big by raising your arms above your head, and closely monitor the bear to determine whether it is acting defensively. Do not run from the bear as this may prompt it to chase.
If the bear is defensive — as sows with cubs often are — they may charge. Fish and Game recommends that people play dead by lying face down with your hands behind your neck. More tips for how to be safe in bear country can be found at www.adfg.alaska.gov by typing in "bear safety" in the search field.
Contact reporter Maisie Thomas at 459-7544.