Two local bears die under fire
Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG
Seward Police Department officer Messmer fires and misses on purpose. Typically non-lethal noisemaking shells provoke a black bear to keep on the move in downtown Seward.
It had been quiet on the bear front for too long and the relative paucity of bear paws in the city obviously had to end. And so it did. With a bang. One bear ended up missing, presumed dead and another was accidentally dispatched by a Seward Police Department officer.
All the signs were there as the threat grew. Beginning in late September and continuing into the first week of October, sightings of black bears began showing up in the Seward Police Department journals and in Facebook postings. Then, early on Oct. 6, a bear was sighted across from AVTEC’s new dorms on Third. An officer was advised. That afternoon vehicles at Spring Creek Correctional Center started getting a beat down by a different bear.
Late in the evening of that same day, SCCC staff requested an officer to the parking lot where a black bear was causing damage to vehicles and crawling into truck beds. A SPD officer responded but the bear was already gone. He remained in the area waiting for the bear to return after being told that the bear was becoming increasingly aggressive.
The officer spotted the furred perpetrator as it approached him and took a shot as the black bear show no signs of backing off. However, the bear was only wounded and got away. Subsequent sightings of three bear cubs with no apparent mother in the vicinity have caused speculation that the bear died of its wounds.
Then, a few days later, several anonymous parties reported a little black bear between Third and Fourth on Washington around lunch hour on Oct. 9. Later that afternoon another caller reported a bear in a yard on Second. An officer responded and, this time, the pursuit was on. The medium sized black bear sidled and ambled through alleyways and across streets through downtown.
Tracking the bear, the officer twice stepped out of his SPD cruiser, once on Ballaine and finally in the alley behind the Seward Community Library Museum. He fired noisemaker shells to encourage the critter to vacate the scene and move along. However, on the second occasion a freak accident resulted in the death of the bear as it reportedly swallowed the shell whereupon the shell exploded.
The bear was quickly covered by a yellow tarp on the Fifth Avenue sidewalk as a National Park Service enforcement officer and SPD Lieutenant Louis “Butch” Tiner arrived on the scene. A charity was notified and reports are still forthcoming as to the injuries suffered by the bear causing its almost instant death.
SPD says that it is looking into developing procedures to better deal with bears wandering into “urban” Seward. At close quarters even the noisy shells employed by SPD officers can be lethal and the city is arranging additional training for other bear management methods from Alaska Department of Fish and Game for its staff. Live trapping and relocation of bears is also being considered.