Every time Joe Gottschalk saw a young black bear limping in his Eagle River neighborhood over the past few weeks, she wanted to help.
“People keep saying, ‘Is there a way to help this little guy?’ And now the little one is looking very weak,” she said. “So I don’t know what will happen to this little bear, but by no means do I feel right to completely ignore its suffering.”
Gottschalk said he and his neighbors saw several bears over the summer, but focused on this bear around July 3, when he stopped walking with his right leg. In videos captured by home security cameras, the bear can be seen jumping on driveways or streets on three toes.
Dave Battle, a wildlife biologist in the Anchorage area of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said bears are usually able to recover from injuries on their own, but biologists will try to evaluate them to see the extent of the injury, if possible.
“But bears do quite well on three legs, and they are really tough and can recover from a lot of different things,” he said.
In cases where the animal doesn’t look like it will recover or when it looks like the injury will cause the animal to suffer long before it dies, wildlife officials will dispatch the bear, Battelle said.
“There is no funding source for veterinary care for wild animals,” he said. “… animals are injured and they either recover or they die in the wild all the time, and our job is generally to manage the population – we don’t save individuals.”
Fish and game officials will help with more minor rescue situations, such as untie a bear from a bucket or untie Christmas lights from a moose horn. According to Battle, they anesthetize a moose before it is treated with antibiotics to remove the porcupine quills and prevent infection. But major injuries are difficult to treat.
Battelle said wildlife officials work with zoos and conservation organizations to save orphaned young animals and keep them with those organizations for the rest of their lives, but even this effort remains in place at facilities. is dependent.
According to Battle, two injured bears have recently been reported in Eagle River. There have been bears with more injuries than usual this year, he said, although it is not clear why.
If an animal is killed because of an injury, Battelle said, he inspects the injury to find out what caused it before the animal’s remains are saved for charity.
Battle encouraged anyone seeing an injured animal to contact Fish & Game.
“We can’t guarantee we can always get a run out right away, but if we’re available, we’ll try to get out there and watch it,” Battelle said. “Sometimes in Eagle River, by the time we get out there, at times the animal is back in the woods and it’s hard to find. But keep reporting, and we’ll keep an eye on it eventually.”