ANCHORAGE, Alaska – One moment Howard Hawkins Jr. was driving to get an early morning cup of coffee and the next he hit a large grizzly bear running at a full gallop across one of Anchorage’s busiest streets.
“It is just unreal,” Hawkins said Friday, less than 12 hours after his 2002 Land Rover struck the bear. “I didn’t have time to react. I wasn’t even able to hit my brakes or anything. What stopped the forward motion of the car is that I ran into a big bear.”
Hawkins, 57, plowed into the bear shortly before 4 a.m. in what is the latest in a summer of close encounters between human and bear in Alaska’s largest city.
The male bear came out of the woods from one of Anchorage’s many greenbelts. It was struck on a four-lane highway near a large car dealership and RV campground. The collision pushed in the front end of Hawkins’ Land Rover. The vehicle’s air bags deployed but Hawkins was uninjured.
He called 911 and got out of his car to await police. The bear, angry and in a lot of pain with a broken leg, was behind the Land Rover stumbling around, roaring and growling.
Officers arrived within minutes and advised Hawkins to get back in his vehicle; he did.
At one point, the bear charged the officers, police spokesman Paul Honeman said.
The grizzly made its way off the road and back into the woods, where officers found it and killed it.
The bear was a 15-year-old grizzly that was part of a state Fish and Game research study to determine how many bears there are in Anchorage.
The bear was trapped in 2006 and fitted with a global positioning collar that showed it stayed mostly in one of two areas, including Far North Bicentennial Park where there have been two bear maulings and several encounters with grizzlies this summer.
One of the bears, a sow with two cubs that was believed to be responsible for much of the trouble, was shot and killed Tuesday.
The grizzlies come into Anchorage in the summer to feed on salmon and moose, said Sean Farley, a Fish and Game research biologist who conducted the study that showed residents share the city with at least 20 grizzlies.