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Polar bear killed near village in Interior

Fairbanks, Alaska (AP) 4-08

A polar bear wandering around the outskirts of a village 250 miles from the coast was killed over safety concerns.

The village of Fort Yukon is in Interior Alaska. The polar bear, which is a coastal bear, was spotted eating lynx carcasses. Zeb Cadzow killed it.

“There’s usually grizzly around this time of year,” Cadzow said. “You want to get rid of it because it’s hungry.”

The white bear was first spotted outside a cabin on the edge of town by Peter John, said Tony Carroll, who had recently been skinning lynx at the cabin.

Most people didn’t believe him, Carroll said, but as word spread around town, more than a half dozen hunters began tracking the bear.

Cadzow, maintenance director at the Council of Athabascan Tribal Government, took off work after lunch to join in the hunt. The men tracked the bear three miles out of town to the Porcupine River, where it moved onto a river island.

At that point, most of the hunters returned to Fort Yukon for a sled dog race, leaving Cadzow, 30, and Paul Herbert, 60, to continue the hunt.

“We assumed we were chasing a grizzly bear,” Herbert said.

Cadzow concurred, thinking the white description meant it was an albino bear or a grizzly covered in frost.

While Herbert waited at one end of the island, Cadzow, on foot, went into the brush tracking the bear. Suddenly, the bear came out from under a brush pile about 10 yards away. It charged at Cadzow, who was carrying a rifle.

The encounter was so close, Cadzow said, he didn’t have time to lift and sight the rifle.

“I shot from the hip, seven or eight times,” he said. “If I had gotten it to my shoulder, it (bear) would have been on top of me. It happened so quick, by the time it was down, it was about 10 feet from my feet.”

The hunters said the young female bear appeared to be in good health and wasn’t starving.

The hunters contacted the Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks on Thursday and were delivering the hide and head Friday so biologists can have a closer look at the bear. It will be sent to the Marine Mammal division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for further study.

After perusing some photographs Thursday evening, Dick Shideler, a Fish and Game wildlife biologist who studies North Slope grizzly bears, is in cautious agreement.

“I’m not 100 percent sure, but it sure looks like a polar bear. The ear set looks right, so does the head profile, and the feet look pretty big which is pretty typical (of polar bears),” Shideler said.

The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits the killing of polar bears under most circumstances. The bears are being considered for listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The shooting of the bear will be investigated by Fish and Wildlife’s law enforcement office to see whether it falls under a defense of life exclusion in the law.

Alaska Natives also are allowed to kill polar bears for subsistence purposes.

“They reported this as a defense of life,” Larry Bell, an assistant regional director with Fish and Wildlife in Anchorage,
Officers will be “looking closely at it,” he said.

Bell said while there is every indication the bear was a polar bear, the agency will be trying to determine that as well.

If the killing of the bear is determined to be a crime, the shooter could be fined $20,000 and get one year in jail.

 

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