A brown bear killed by Alaska State Troopers Sunday on the Kasilof River’s north beach following reports of an attack and other aggressive behavior has tested negative for rabies. A necropsy revealed the bear was likely blind or partially blind.
The unprovoked attack resulted in minor injuries to Kenai resident Toby Burke. Subsequent reports of the bear’s unusual actions prior to the attack included accounts of it lashing out at a telephone pole in one instance and a moving pickup truck in another prompted Soldotna Wildlife Biologist Jeff Selinger to collect the bear’s head and spine for rabies testing.
The bear’s skull and spine were further examined by Alaska Department of Fish and Game Veterinarian Kimberlee Beckmen. She discovered that the bear, a sow estimated to have been about 20 years old, was blind in its right eye and may have been visually impaired in its left eye as well. The cornea of the bear’s right eye was ruptured as part of an old injury, Beckmen said. The cornea of the left eye was clouded, suggesting possible impairment, though to what extent is unknown.
“Impaired vision could explain the bear’s behavior,” Beckmen said. A bear that is blind or suffering from severely impaired eyesight might behave defensively or aggressively in encounters with objects or beings it is unable to recognize. Beckmen believes, for example, it is possible the bear ran blindly into the telephone pole and swatted at it in fear.
Bears are normally consistent in their reactions to humans and environmental objects, but past events impact their behaviors. People who witness wildlife behaving aggressively or abnormally should contact the nearest Department of Fish and Game office or appropriate law enforcement authorities.
For more information about bear behavior and safety tips for encounters with bears, visit http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livingwithbears.main.
Comments are closed