Man shoots grizzly at Russian River

Posted: Monday, August 19, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A fisherman shot and killed a sow grizzly as she charged him in the early morning darkness Saturday on the banks of the Russian River.

The encounter was the latest of several close calls between people and bears along Southcentral rivers and streams this summer. The Russian is thick with spawned-out sockeye that draw bears.

The grizzly surprised Garen Brenner and two friends about 2:30 a.m. as they packed up their gear at one of the Kenai Peninsula's most popular fishing spots, said Larry Lewis, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife technician.

Brenner heard his friend yell ''Bear! Bear!'' and looked downriver to see the sow a few yards down the bank. The bear lost interest in Brenner's friend after he backed into the water and threw his shotgun at the animal.

But then the bear turned, looked up at Brenner and lunged, said Lewis, who interviewed the three men Saturday.

Brenner fired twice at the center of the hulking shape closing to four or five feet away. The sow, estimated at 400 to 450 pounds, went down. Brenner then put three more bullets into her head.

He used a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol. Lewis said such a low-caliber gun ordinarily doesn't pack enough punch to kill a bear. But Brenner loaded the pistol with full-metal-jacket bullets that penetrated to the bear's vital organs, he said.

The bear most likely was protecting her yearling cub, which waited well behind her above the steep bank, wildlife officials said.

After the shooting, the cub ran up and down the bank near its mother's body, bawling in distress. ''It would stop and smell the bear, the sow, and then it would go into the water a ways, then it would come back,'' said Bill Shuster, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service.

Lewis later tranquilized the cub, tagged and collared it and moved the bear to the south side of Skilak Lake.

Authorities are looking into whether the dead bear is the same sow that attacked a Soldotna mother and son hiking Resurrection Pass Trail on Friday afternoon about three miles from Cooper Landing.

That bear, also accompanied by a cub, raked the woman's face with her claws and bit the son.

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