July 18, 2016
Contact: Ben Hayes
, (907) 983 9206
Skagway - A young adult brown bear was seriously injured during a “hazing” attempt by a Skagway Police Department (SPD) officer in the National Park Service (NPS) Dyea Campground on the evening of Saturday, July 16. The bear may still be alive and SPD Officers and NPS Rangers will maintain increased presence in the Dyea area in the coming days.
The incident began earlier Saturday evening as campers were preparing meals and attempting to scare a bear from their site using a car horn, shouts and other forms of noise. A SPD officer responded and decided it was necessary to “haze” the bear from the campground.
Bear “hazing” attempts to create a negative experience for a bear that seeks out human food sources or loses its natural avoidance of humans and developed areas. Standard “hazing” practice involves a shotgun loaded with non-lethal rubber slugs or a combination of rubber rounds and noise-deterrent rounds in sequence to deliver the greatest scare effect when chasing bears from developed areas such as a campground. When performed correctly, non-lethal rounds rarely damage the animal and are designed to inflict minimal momentary pain. While preparing his duty shotgun for non-lethal hazing, the officer inadvertently loaded a lethal slug into the chamber and it struck the bear in the hind section.
NPS personnel were not present at the time of the shooting, but an on-duty NPS ranger in Skagway overhead the radio traffic and responded to the campground. After being shot, the bear ran away from the campground and SPD Officers and NPS Rangers worked together to contain the injured bear and prevent it from leaving the immediate area. Following several hours of tracking the bear was observed swimming across the Taiya River toward an island near the west bank and was last tracked entering the River downstream of the island as it became dark. The bear was observed to be walking with great difficulty and is believed to have succumbed to the river current. Subsequent search efforts along the river bank have indicated no further sign of the injured bear, but authorities have not been able to verify that the bear has died from its wounds. Authorities believe that this bear is the same young adult brown bear that has been frequently observed around Dyea since early in the summer.
Visitors to Dyea are advised to report all bear sightings and to avoid approaching any bears. If a bear is observed to be limping or having difficulty walking or running call 9-1-1 or contact a ranger immediately to report the suspected injured bear. Cell service can be spotty or non-existent in Dyea, so visitors are encouraged to use the emergency phone outside of the Dyea Ranger Station which directly connects the user to Skagway Police Dispatch upon lifting the phone receiver.
The National Park Service and Skagway Police Department regret this unfortunate outcome for the bear and the increased risk to public safety. The two agencies have reviewed the incident and the officer actions and are working collaboratively to review bear management policies and training strategies to ensure that response personnel are well trained and working together to protect park wildlife and the visiting public.