Well-known white-eared bear found dead of gunshot wound in Sitka neighborhood

fat sow with white ears
The sow was recognizable to many Sitkans for her white-tipped ears. Recently, she had been featured as the cover image on the Sitka Bear Report social media page. (Sitka Bear Report/Sam Schenck)

Alaska Wildlife Troopers are investigating the fatal shooting of a brown bear in a Sitka neighborhood last week.

A resident in the 1500-block of Edgecumbe Drive called Sitka Police on the morning of Nov. 8 to report that a bear was dying in her backyard. On arrival, officers found that the bear had died.

Wildlife Trooper Kyle Ferguson performed a necropsy on the animal later that afternoon.

“It was a female,” said Ferguson, “a younger bear. It was known to a lot of Sitkans. It was a sow that was distinctive for her white ears, and she had spent a lot of time out at Starrigavan.”

A picture of the bear standing in Starrigavan Creek is the cover image for the Sitka Bear Report, a social media page used by many Sitkans to report bear sightings.

Ferguson says that the sow had been killed by a single shot from a small-caliber firearm, most likely a rifle. He adds that no one in the vicinity had reported gunshots, either on Nov. 8 or the previous day, so the bear may have been wounded elsewhere.

That part of Edgecumbe Drive is not an ideal place to fire a rifle.

“It’s high-density housing, and people have to be very careful about where they’re shooting,” he said.

In Alaska it is legal to shoot a bear in defense of life or property — known as a “DLP — so whoever killed the bear may have been within their rights. Ferguson says troopers are continuing to investigate the incident.

“If anybody has any information about the circumstances of how this bear ended up getting shot, the Wildlife Troopers would like to know,” said Ferguson. “It’s perfectly possible that this was a legitimate DLP shooting, or it could have been a not legitimate DLP shooting.”

The sow was the fourteenth brown bear killed in Sitka this season, and the second killed by a resident rather than by wildlife authorities.

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Robert Woolsey is a reporter at KCAW in Sitka.