Effective Aug. 29, Kenai’s VIP subdivision is officially a “bear problem area.”
That means residents in the subdivision near Kalifornsky Beach Road need to take extra precautions to keep bear attractants where bears can’t get to them. The city can provide a list of approved bear-resistant containers; some are available at Home Depot, City Manager Rick Koch said. Bear-resistant Dumpsters are available through local solid waste carriers, too.
Koch said bear encounters have been on the rise in that neighborhood, leading to the problem designation.
“We’ve had a number of them in the last two weeks and they seem to be escalating,” Koch said.
One of the biggest problems in the area are overflowing Dumpsters at multi-family dwellings, Koch said.
City police have had to fire rubber bullets on a regular basis, in part because a few property owners have had significant bear attractants out in the open, Koch said.
Sgt. Ben Langham, from the Kenai Police Department, said problems in that neighborhood began in mid-July. The department sent an officer to check out a report of a sow and two cubs. The sow attacked the patrol car and chased it about 70 yards after the officer got back in and drove away, Langham said.
Later that day, the police department went back to the area planning to haze the bears.
“The sow charged one of the officers,” Langham said.
Police shot the sow and both cubs.
More recently, two brown bear cubs have been wandering through the neighborhood since about Aug. 12. The bears root through trash, fish smokers, bird feeders and other attractants, Langham said.
Those reports prompted Koch to make the bear designation. Kenai’s city code tasks the city manager with determining when an area is a “bear problem area,” but Koch said the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is generally supportive of such action.
The bear problem designation in VIP isn’t going away anytime soon.
Koch said it will likely last for the remainder of the summer.
“It’s definitely through to the winter...” he said.
Koch said the city is available to help residents who can’t eliminate bear attractants on their own.
“Our goal is not to write tickets,” he said. “Our goal is to get folks to comply and get bears not to be attracted.”
The city can help clean up yards for those that are unable to comply on their own, Koch said.
VIP isn’t the only neighborhood with issues.
Last summer, the Strawberry Road-Beaver Creek area was designated a problem area. Asking residents to reduce attractants in that area has prevented more bear problems, Koch said.
“It’s been pretty successful,” he said. “Bears are still moving through, but they’re not stopping.”
This winter, he hopes the city will consider implementing the bear measures city-wide, rather than on a problem-by-problem basis.
The details of a city-wide extension of bear protection measures still have to be worked out. Koch said the most difficult part of such an effort might be the cost, but he thought the city could work around that.
It wouldn’t be a mandate for expensive trash cans so much as for behavior modification. Individuals could get the trash cans or store garbage in the garage or visit the solid waste transfer site more frequently, Koch said.