Two vehicle break-ins were reported at a Kodiak airport parking lot earlier this week. The culprit? A bear.
“We live in a place where we have to be more aware of bears breaking in than humans,” said Doreen Phillips, whose vehicle was vandalized by a bear while it was parked in a parking lot adjacent to the Kodiak Benny Benson State Airport.
Phillips is one of two vehicle owners who have reported bear break-ins at the airport in the past week. Alyssa Brenteson found her vehicle totaled by a bear on Friday. An estimate revealed that the bear had caused $15,000 in damages.
Both Phillips and Brenteson are residents of Akhiok, a village approximately 90 miles away from the town of Kodiak. They make regular trips to town for grocery runs and other errands, and regularly park their vehicles at the airport between trips. But they say parking at the airport may no longer be a safe option.
“Being from the village, I really don’t have another choice in parking,” Brenteson said. “I’m kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
Brenteson said she parked her car at the airport last Wednesday. When she returned to check on it Friday around 4 p.m., her car was in a shocking state. The roof of the car was caved in, a window was broken, seats were ripped, and the car was covered in muddy bear prints and fur.
Two days later, Brenteson noticed similar damage to Phillips’ car. Since then, Brenteson said she has heard of five other vehicle owners who experienced similar damage caused by bears in the parking lot.
The damaged cars were all parked in a parking lot, which is near a wooded area. The lot is separate from the central long-term parking lot at the airport, which charges $5 per day. Brenteson and Phillips said they use the free lot because they cannot afford to pay for parking their vehicle at the airport longer than three weeks per month.
Nate Svoboda, Kodiak area wildlife biologist for the Department of Fish and Game, said that what made these incidents unusual was the lack of fragrant items in the cars. Usually, bear break-ins are associated with food or trash kept in vehicles. But in this case, Phillips and Brenteson said they paid careful attention not to leave food in their cars.
“It’s kind of odd for a bear to break in if there was nothing else to attract it,” Svoboda said.
The incidents were reported to Alaska Wildlife Troopers, who are investigating to determine whether the break-ins are the work of a repeat offender.
Svoboda said five incidents involving bears breaking into vehicles in Kodiak have been reported since the beginning of the year.
To avoid similar incidents, he recommends not to leave anything aromatic in cars, including air fresheners and clothes worn while hunting and fishing.
But, he said, “some of it is just the luck of the draw.”
Update: The original story misstated the ownership of the parking lot in which vehicles were damaged by bears. The parking lot is not owned by Island Air.