April 9, 2012 in Region

Kodiak bear escapes from wildlife facility

Dan Joling Associated Press
 

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaska wildlife center that takes in orphaned and injured animals is missing one of its larger residents.

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center announced Monday that a 300-pound, 2-year-old female Kodiak brown bear escaped six days ago from its enclosure near Portage. The bear had been destined for a zoo in Sweden in early summer.

The center is in a rural area at the southernmost end of Anchorage, about 40 miles from downtown. The center is near wild areas of the Chugach National Forest and the bear was last seen Tuesday night in mountains between the Portage and Placer valleys, the center said.

The bear had been named Shaguyik, an Eskimo name for “ghost” or “shadow,” according to the center website.

It’s the first time the center has had an escape, said executive director Mike Miller.

“We had our electric fence turned off for maintenance and during that time, something spooked Shaguyik,” Miller said in the announcement. “Unfortunately, this year’s heavy snow load required us to fix our electric fence and that’s when the incident occurred.”

The bear climbed over the fence to escape, said center spokesman Ethan Tyler.

The bear was found on its own in December 2010 on Kodiak Island at a season when most bears were denned up for the winter, according to the center’s website. She was flown to Anchorage for care. A veterinarian spayed her in November.

She carries a microchip but is not wearing a collar and has no identifying tags. The nonprofit center is the custodian of the bear under a permit but it remains the possession of the state, Tyler said.

The center is the permanent home of five bears. Shaguyik and another young bear were under the center’s care until they could be moved to a Swedish zoo in June.

The center is working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to find the blond bear from the air and with searchers on the ground. The center held off announcing the escape on the advice of the department in part to avoid having people come down to search for the animal and create congestion, Tyler said.

Center officials warned that the bear should not be approached.

“Even though Shaguyik has been in captivity most of her life, the public should treat this bear with extreme caution,” Miller said. “Because of its habituation, Shaguyik may not respond the same as wild bears and avoid human interaction. If someone sees the bear, the best thing to do is keep your distance and contact the authorities.”

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