The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Wounded brown bear causes concern after it was shot at ball field

Trooper confiscates hunting rifle and police issue citation to Fairbanks man


Valdez Star photo

Wildlife and emergency officials in Valdez were on alert at the Gold Ball Fields Monday after a brown bear was shot and wounded - and on the loose in the area.

State and local wildlife officials were on the trail of a wounded brown bear Sunday night and into Monday morning after the bruin was shot by a worried camper.

"Reports indicated that the bear was wounded" but not killed said Allie Ferko, the city's public information officer.

Despite a finding - and following - a blood trail, volunteers and emergency officials were unable to locate the wounded animal.

"They were unable to locate the bear," Ferko said.

The city issued an alert to area residents to be on the alert for the presence of a wounded and potentially dangerous bear.

The drama unfolded Sunday night at the Gold Fields along the Richardson Highway, which was filled with softball players who were camping on the grounds.

"At the time of the incident, the softball tournament was over," she said. "During this tournament, out of town teams are allowed to camp at the ball fields."

The teams visiting from out of town receive special permission to pitch tents and park RVs next to the ball fields, which is normally closed to campers.

"We get special permission" yearly, Ferko said.

Valdez teams are afforded the same courtesy when playing out of town games she added, "That has been the case for 15, 20 years."

At around 9 p.m. Sunday night, Valdez police were notified that Fairbanks man David Avery, age 39, had fired two rounds at the brown bear, using a hunting rifle.

"A brown bear had entered their campsite," Ferko said, "There were kids around, that kind of thing."

While it is legal to shoot wildlife in Alaska if it is in defense of life and property, it is not legal to shoot bears or other wildlife if they are merely present near people.

A press release issued by the city late Monday afternoon states that Valdez police cited Avery for unlawful discharge of a firearm.

"The citation requires a mandatory court appearance and may result in a find up to $500," the city said.

Alaska Wildlife Trooper also confiscated Avery's rifle according to the press release.

"The AST investigation will determine if shooting the bear was in compliance with the state of Alaska statute for defense of life and property," the city said

The press release also reviews State of Alaska's tips that advise citizens on what they should do if coming into conflict with bears.

• First make sure that you and your family are in a safe spot (inside a house or vehicle, or standing close together with 3 or more people).

• Make noise (yell, bang pans, etc.) to scare the bear.

• If the bear is not threatening, watch it and try to figure out why it is attracted to your home or camp. Fix the problem after the bear leaves. You can call the Valdez Animal Control Officer or Valdez Police Department for suggestions

• If the bear is a threat to a person's life or your property you may either call 911and/or shoot the bear yourself.

• Remember, if the bear has been attracted to your home or camp by improperly stored food or garbage, it can NOT be legally killed.

The city says anyone with bear questions or problems should call police at 834-3468.

The also offer this message:

According to law in the state of Alaska, persons may legally take game in defense of life or property if the necessity for the taking is not brought about by harassment or provocation of the animal, by unreasonable invasion of the animal's habitat, or by improper disposal of garbage or a similar attractive nuisance. All other practicable means to protect life and property must be exhausted before the game may be legally taken.

Valdez Star photo

Ball players and their families had received special permission to camp at the ball park during the Valdez Softball Association's annual July Magic Invitational Tournament.

While game meat is considered your property, you may not kill a bear to protect it unless the meat is critical for your survival. Even in this situation you still must do everything possible to protect the meat (i.e. proper storage, scaring the scavenger, etc.) before you may kill the bear.

If you have to shoot a bear, be sure you shoot to kill - wounded bears are potentially more dangerous than healthy bears. Also be very careful of what lies beyond your intended target - stray bullets can travel over a mile and still be deadly.

Bears killed in defense of life or property belong to the state of Alaska. If you kill a bear you must remove the hide from the carcass and must also salvage the skull. You must give both the hide, with claws attached, and the skull to ADF&G. You must also notify your local ADF&G and Alaska Wildlife Troopers. You are also required to fill out and submit a Defense of Life or Property Report Form questionnaire concerning the circumstances within 15 days.


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