Wayward bear scampers through city
Animal jousts with its reflection, gives runner, walker a start
By Peter Porco
Anchorage Daily News
(Published: August 8, 2001)
A young bear wandered through the heart of Anchorage on Sunday, popping up on streets and greenbelts and scaring the devil out of several people. But the bear seemed just as frightened, according to those who encountered it.
The bear apparently tried to pick a fight with its own reflection in the windows of a Spenard house. It bolted away from a runner after what seemed like a charge, then warily crossed Lake Otis Parkway as cars stopped short for it.
The bear hasn't been heard from since Sunday, when its appearance prompted more than a dozen calls to Anchorage police, said Rick Sinnott, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
From what witnesses told him, Sinnott said Tuesday, it was hard to know for sure if the bear was a grizzly or a black, or even if only one bear was involved. One of the encounters, however, was almost certainly with a grizzly, he said.
That incident involved Todd LaPorte, a financial adviser who lives in a basement apartment in a house near Westchester Lagoon.
About 10:35 a.m. Sunday, LaPorte was sitting in a living room chair inches from one of three picture windows. The windows look out from below an overhang to the backyard lawn and a thick stand of trees.
LaPorte was talking on the phone when he heard a loud crash over his right shoulder.
"Out of nowhere something comes into the side of the building, hits part of the window frame and the concrete foundation and rolls upward against the window," LaPorte recalled Tuesday. "If it crashed through the glass it would have come right into my lap."
Only when the bruin stood back and swiped at the window, and LaPorte saw the foot pad and claws against the glass, did he realize what it was.
"I was six inches from the window, looking at it in shock. It took that entire time for me to realize it was a bear."
He yelled into the phone, "I'm being attacked by a bear!" he said. He jumped up, tumbled over another chair and fell on the floor.
"I look up and the bear is charging again." The bear smashed again into the heavy frame and the concrete wall beneath the windows, and deflected upward. It tried to bite the glass, slobbering over it, he said.
On Tuesday, the glass still showed signs of the bear's encounter with itself -- paw prints, the tracks of its tongue and lips and dried slaver.
LaPorte got up and ran to the closet at the far end of the room where he keeps his gun. He tore the sliding door off its runners, cursing himself because the gun case was locked. He ripped it open.
The bear, meanwhile, dropped to all fours, paused, "and then just bolted" through the trees, LaPorte said.
"I remember thinking, It's going to run into a chain-link fence. It will feel trapped and then come up again and be really pissed.' "
Twenty minutes went by, and no bear. LaPorte walked outside, and found the 5-foot fence down.
"He tore it like tissue paper," said LaPorte. The metal posts were bent and the cross bar bellied out.
Sinnott guessed the bear had come loping down the street into the yard, turned the corner around a large bush and ran toward the windows at an angle, seeing only the reflection of the trees. After hitting the window, it may have thought it was in a fight with another bear.
It likely was the same bear that surprised Sven Ole Jordan and Mike Mark Anthony, who each saw it Sunday afternoon along the Chester Creek greenbelt.
Jordan said he was running west at midafternoon when he heard a crashing in the trees to his left. He thought it was a moose and stopped, thinking he'd have to dodge the animal.
About 20 yards behind him on the trail, however, the bear came out of the woods, sliding on to the bike path "like a dog on a linoleum floor," Jordan said.
The bear faced away from him, then turned, saw Jordan and "comes full tilt at me," he said. "I was slightly scared, then full-blown terror."
He yelled for help. The bear ran up to him and skidded again, stopping at his feet. It then backed up. Jordan also backed up and got behind a tree. They looked at each other, "doing the peek-a-boo thing," he said.
"For some strange reason, it turned, took off and ran back into the woods just as fast full-tilt as it came at me," said Jordan. "It never growled, never took a swipe. It could easily have killed me."
Anthony was unavailable Tuesday, but his fiancee, Monika Hensel, said he was walking one of their dogs on Lake Otis Parkway near the greenbelt when he heard a car brake to a quick stop. He looked to the right, and a brown bear was trotting across the street toward him and the dog, Hensel said.
"Mike was very surprised," she said. "The dog stopped. And the bear stopped three feet away from my dog."
The dog, a 5-year-old female German shepherd named Paisley, has been trained not to bark at moose, Hensel said. Paisley turned her back to the bear and looked at Anthony.
"The bear tried then to get a little closer, and my fiance was concerned and started yelling," she said. The bear turned and took off at a trot back into the trees, said Hensel.