Bear in dumpster forces Gruening into ‘stay-put’ mode

Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - 13:04
  • Star file photo

A black bear on campus forced Gruening Middle School to briefly go into “stay-put” mode Wednesday morning.

Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Renee Oistad said the department got a call at around 8 a.m. about a bear in a dumpster behind the school. Officers quickly arrived on scene, as did biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Gruening assistant principal Kelly Parsons said the bear got into a temporary dumpster used by the school’s cafeteria and maintenance staff. The dumpster was “bear resistant” and had chain-link grating over the opening, but Parsons said the bear chewed through the metal to get inside.

“He ate a hole in the top,” she said.

Parsons said staff called police and Fish and Game, and the school went into the “stay-put” mode as a precaution. Parsons said students were aware of what was happening outside and remained calm.

“It was just another opportunity to practice our safety measures,” she said.

The entire incident lasted about an hour, she said.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh said APD officers were able to trap the bear inside the dumpster using straps. Once biologists arrived, they opened the dumpster in the direction of the Eagle River, and the bear ran off.

When it got about 20 yards away, Marsh said, a biologists fired a rubber bullet at its hindquarters to hasten its retreat from the school.

“The bear kicked it into high gear,” Marsh said.

He said biologists are hopeful the animal will not return to the area.

“They’re optimistic the bear learned its lesson,” he said.

Gruening is located alongside Eagle River Road and less than a half-mile from the Eagle River, a highly active corridor for bear activity.

A post on the school’s Facebook page said there will be additional eyes on students walking home from school today.

“We will have increased supervision in the area after school today,” read the post. “We encourage all our walkers to avoid the area behind the school near the dumpster.”

Parsons said no students were in the area of the dumpster when the bear was spotted. She said the temporary dumpster is being removed and a more secure piece of equipment will be installed this afternoon.

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