Evidence that Bear resistant containers are not Bear-Proof.
Human encounters with bears even during their hibernation season seem to becoming more common on the Kenai Peninsula according to Alaska Department of Fish & Game Wildlife Technician Larry Lewis, “We’re seeing a lot more year round problems with bears, later in the season and earlier in the season and a lot of that activity is not due to bear behavior but human behavior,” says Lewis. Readily available food sources is what Lewis believes is responsible for keeping bears out and about rather then in their dens conserving their energy reserves, “I equate available garbage to bear cocaine, they become addicted to it, it’s an easy food source and they get a lot of bang for the buck so to speak or return for their effort and so there is no reason for them to go away when the food is readily accessible.”
To curb the problem community wildlife conservation programs such as the Bear Aware partnership between the ADF&G and the City of Kenai have been offering reduced costs for residents to purchase bear resistant trash containers and Lewis says the programs are seeing some success, “Bears are highly intelligent and extremely powerful each with an individual personality and level of persistence, but we are finding that with the bear resistant containers when people do have a bear come in and find garbage that is inside their resistant container the bear may work it over for awhile and then become frustrated and figure it’s not worth the effort and move on, but unfortunately they move on to the next door neighbor who doesn’t have a resistant container and that’s who we get the call from rather than the bear changing his habit. We are continuing our program with the City of Kenai and hopefully this spring Homer, Seward and Cooper Landing will also start a wildlife conservation community program, it’s good for the resource and our neighborhoods and it’s good for the wildlife of Alaska,” said Lewis.
The bear resistant container pictured was recently returned to ADF&G who replaced it, “That’s why we say bear resistant and not bear proof, when you figure a bear can go through the side of a building or chew through a log on a log cabin to gain entry you have to realize how powerful and intelligent a bear is, and in this case the bear won and his persistence paid off, but what we are being successful at is lessening the impact and lessening their opportunities to get a quick fix and the bear resistant containers are key to accomplishing that,” added Lewis.
The recent winter cold and heavy snow has been causing other difficulties for the Peninsula’s wildlife populations, but according to ADF&G Area Wildlife Biologist Jeff Selinger the weather isn’t the major factor effecting the moose , “We are seeing an overall decreasing trend in the moose population due to over utilization of range and the lack of quality habitat, predation, and road kills which are still the major factors affecting the population decrease at the present time between the mountains and the coast, but hunter or human harvest that we have on the moose are not really driving what the moose population is doing at this time,” Selinger told the Dispatch.
Selinger also issued a warning to good Samaritans who might think they are helping distressed moose by offering them food, “The animal most likely will not be able to process or digest the foods that people might offer such as hay, unless the moose has been feeding on that hay all winter because it takes time for the digestive bacteria of a moose to adjust, it’s common to find a moose that has starved to death with a full stomach of hay or other food because they simply can’t process what they’ve been offered,” explained Selinger. He also cautioned that as moose become more stressed they become more short tempered and are more likely to charge if provoked so if you have an animal visiting your front yard be cautious, “The best thing to do is cover your shrubs that the moose might be coming in to feed on with that orange construction fence and make loud noise to run them off, but keep a safe distance and route of escape in case of a charge.”
For more information about the community wildlife conservation program contact the City of Kenai or call ADF&G at 262-9368.
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