Troopers euthanize cub that wandered into Petersburg grocery store

Bystanders watched through the windows of Petersburg IGA as wildlife troopers and police captured a young bear inside the grocery store on Oct. 17. Authorities later killed the orphaned bear, which they said was unlikely to survive the winter.

Alaska State Wildlife Troopers Josh Spann and Sgt. Cody Litster tried to push the bear out the door, hoping to get it back into a wooded lot and on its own again. However, “it was starting to create more problems and a spectacle,” Litster said.

“A dog catcher’s pole was used. It was brought out across the street, put in the cage in a patrol car, and whisked away,” he said.

The young bear was being tracked by Petersburg police following a slew of sightings of a small bear seen up by the school before working its way down the hill to the waterfront.

Litster said the bear somehow wandered through the OBI Seafoods plant and then entered through the back doors at Petersburg IGA.

The trooper described the bear as very emaciated and strikingly smaller in stature than what would be expected for a cub at this time of year. Litster said it had been seen without its mother for several days before its misadventure through town, adding its chances of winter survival were very low.

The Department of Fish and Game maintains a roster of potential placements for orphaned animals, but “there wasn’t any sort of placement availability for a bear,” the sergeant said.

“So, all those factors, and just having to make a decision on the fly, it was determined to euthanize it.”

Litster said there was a second seemingly orphaned cub wandering Peterburg that was being tracked by authorities. He said it is not considered a dangerous threat, but it is a concern.

People’s reactions to bears often are more dangerous than the bear itself. “We have not had an instance where a bear is dangerous. But what has been dangerous is people who are trying to save their neighborhood and make their neighborhood safe by taking care of a bear. And they do so by releasing a .30-caliber bullet that travels through a bear and down the street,” said Litster. “Bullets and guns taking care of bears are more dangerous than the bears that are actually here.”


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