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Hungry urban bears feasting on moose along Anchorage trails

Craig Medred

Summer has come to Anchorage. Mothers lock up your children. The bears are out.

OK, it's not quite that bad, but the bears are out. One was early Friday feeding on a moose carcass near a couple of popular bike trails in the ever-popular Kincaid Park adjacent to Ted Stevens International Airport. Two single-track trails loved by mountain bikers -- Sandbox and Bolling Alley -- were closed until the carcass could be removed.

Kincaid is primarily home to black bears, but grizzly bears have been known to range through the area. A 600-pound grizzly boar was found dead there in 2006 after it bit into a high-voltage electric line.

Black bears will usually abandon a moose carcass if people approach, but not grizzlies. Grizzly bears are dangerous animals to meet over the carcass of a dead moose.

The worst accident in Southcentral bear history happened just south of the city on the McHugh Creek trail in the first days of July 1995. Well-known local runner Marcie Trent, 77; her son-in-law, 45-year-old Larry Waldron; and then 14-year-old Art Abel stumbled into a grizzly on a moose kill while hiking.

The bear attacked to defend its food. Trent and Waldron were both killed. Abel barely escaped. The bear vanished by the time rescuers arrived on the scene and was never found.

Because of the danger of bears on moose kills, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has since made it a practice of removing carcasses from popular trails whenever they are found. The carcass found in Kincaid has now been removed and the trails reopened.

Area wildlife biologist Jessy Coltrane said the moose apparently died of natural causes, but indications were a bear or bears promptly found the body. Two black bears with five cubs between them have regularly been seen in Kincaid in recent days.

"I'm assuming (the cow) died due to pregnancy-related complications," Coltrane said, "although there were some signs that a bear had been eating on her. The carcass was intact, but the guts were pulled out. When I got there, I saw that the calf's legs were sticking out of her stomach."

Nature is not always pretty.

Though the latest incident happened at Kincaid Park, moose and bears use all of the parks and greenbelts in Anchorage. A grizzly once killed and ate a moose in the Campbell Creek greenbelt not far from the busy Dimond Center mall and business complex. There have been several bear maulings within the city, as well.

Anyone using forested and brushy areas should be alert, according to authorities. 

Katie Medred contributed to this story. Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com