Sow and two yearling cubs on Wortman Loop Tuesday afternoon. (Photo courtesy of Ralph Fenner)

A sow and her two cubs were shot by Sitka Police on Tuesday (8-3-21) around 5:30 p.m. on Johnston St. near Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. The three animals had been active throughout Sitka for the past month. The decision to euthanize the bears was made between the Sitka Police Department and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, after authorities concluded that the bears had become a public safety hazard. 

Sergeant Brad Wheeler says the bears had attempted to enter someone’s home the night before, and tried again on Tuesday, not long before the police responded.

“We had a call that they were in somebody’s garage getting into trash, because I guess they had their garage door open for whatever reason. And they actually went into their garage right in the middle of day and started tearing stuff out of their trash in the garage,” said Wheeler. “Then they ran into the woods behind the house and we kind of got them in a pickle. We just cut them off. They ran down from Georgeson Loop down to Johnston Street.”

Wheeler says police dispatched the bears in front of a house on Johnston Street. Then the homeowner came out.

“He was watching us through the window the whole time,” Wheeler says. “And he came out and was like ‘Oh, thank god you guys showed up because just before you got here, one of them was on my back porch and it was pushing against the glass windows so hard. I thought it was gonna break. ‘”

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game had been in contact with police often, as the bears continued to roam area neighborhoods. 

Wildlife Management Biologist Stephen Bethune says that while bear activity in Sitka happens almost every year, the destruction of the animals can be avoided with the help of the public. 

 “These events are always related to improper garbage handling. And that’s what led these bears in the town and will continue to in the future unless people handle their garbage responsibly,”  said Bethune.

Bethune collected tissue samples from the animals, including a tooth from the sow, to determine her age. He says that although she appeared skinny, it’s not unusual for a sow to be in this condition while nursing two yearling cubs

Bethune says the hides were not of high enough quality to preserve for sale through a statewide auction. And although the Raptor Center has in the past taken bear carcasses to feed to the birds, they already had sufficient supplies on hand. The bear carcasses were disposed of at the Jarvis Street Transfer Station.