A black bear crosses the Glacier Spur Road in August 2008. <span id="_mce_caret">This is likely not the bear that was hit and killed this past weekend.</span> (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A black bear crosses the Glacier Spur Road in August 2008. This is likely not the bear that was hit and killed this past weekend. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Black bear dies after being hit by car

Cubs euthanized as scientists deem them too young to fend for themselves

A mother black bear and her two cubs died this past weekend after the mother was hit by a car, Juneau Police Department Lt. Krag Campbell said.

At about 9 p.m. Saturday, someone called JPD to report that a black bear appeared to have been hit by a car on Glacier Spur Road. Campbell said the caller was not the person who hit the bear, and that the person who hit the bear had left the scene. Officers arrived, found that the bear — an adult female — was dead and that there were two bear cubs with the adult bear, Campbell said. JPD then contacted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).

ADF&G personnel arrived and found that the two cubs were first-year black bears and wouldn’t survive the winter without their mother. Roy Churchwell, the Juneau area wildlife biologist for ADF&G, said in an interview Wednesday that a mother teaches her cubs how to den in the winter and provides them warmth. Tom Schumacher, the ADF&G regional supervisor for Southeast, said Wednesday that the cubs would have likely experienced an “unpleasant death.”

Due to this, ADF&G personnel euthanized the two cubs.

“We do what we consider to be the humane thing,” Schumacher said.

Churchwell said he wasn’t there Saturday and didn’t know how exactly the responders euthanized the bears, but he said that usually, they tranquilize the bears and then shoot them in the head to make for as quick a death as possible. Schumacher said bears’ remains are usually taken to the landfill.

There was some concern that the mother bear was a bear known as Nikki, a bear who has been seen in the area often this summer. ADF&G personnel confirmed that the bear was not Nikki, Campbell said.

Churchwell and Schumacher explained that in some cases, orphaned bears can be sent to zoos that have openings for bears. They said that each year, ADF&G reaches out to zoos around the country to see if there are openings. Usually, those openings get filled pretty quickly. Churchwell said there are many orphaned black bears throughout the state every year, and Schumacher pointed out that black bears are common in many Lower 48 states as well, so zoos are able to fill their openings fairly quickly.

“We do our best to find places to adopt bears,” Schumacher said, “but there just aren’t that many available.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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