Bear makes presence known on island

Posted: Sunday, May 09, 2004

A local bruin is ruining the home of some new residents living on a remote piece of property in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

"It just trashed the place," said Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

According to Lewis, a brown bear caused damage while trying to get to some animal feed that was stored in a shed attached to a cabin on Caribou Island in Skilak Lake.

Caribou Island, located in the Southwestern portion of the lake, is an inholding, which is private property inside the refuge.

"The bear just came in and ripped down the siding and fed on it," Lewis said.

The bear also ripped up a Zodiac inflatable boat, a bird feeder and dragged a few trash cans into the brush he said.

"We think it's a younger brown bear. A refuge staff member identified it as being less than 300 pounds, but that's still more bear than you would want to have problems with. It could have been a lot worse."

Lewis added that he was surprised when he first heard the report, because he has never been called to respond to bears in that location. It is believed that the Caribou Island doesn't support a resident bear population, but Lewis said it would be easy for a bear to swim to the island.

This year has been off to a relatively quiet start in regard to interactions between bears and humans on the peninsula. The only exception happened in March when a seismic worker in Ninilchik was attacked after he accidentally flushed a brown bear sow from her den.

Upon investigation of the Caribou Island site, Lewis said he found numerous things that weren't bear-proof at the location.

He found bird feeders still out as well as a few 5-gallon buckets of sunflower seeds and other grains.

However, he said the owners of the property had only recently purchased the cabin and weren't aware that the feed that attracted the bear was even there.

"They're in the process of working on it and getting the place cleaned up now, though," Lewis said.

Fish and Game workers also are doing their part to ensure the situation on Caribou Island doesn't get worse.

"We've got two live traps set up and are hoping to catch the bear before it causes more trouble," Lewis said. He added that in the event that Fish and Game does capture the bear, it will be tagged, radio collared if it's a sow and relocated to a more suitable location.

The incident underscores why all peninsula residents should take precautions to prevent bear interactions.

"People need to take this seriously that the whole peninsula is potentially bear habitat," Lewis said. "It's better to be proactive, rather than be complacent just because you haven't ever seen a bear. Irresponsible and negligent behavior will eventually catch up to you."

Human food, animal food, bird seed, suet and garbage or anything else that might attract a bear should be put away and stored in a secure location.

Fish and Game has numerous books, videos and other information pertaining to bear-proofing and bear safety that are available to the general public.

Lewis recommended that anyone interested in learning more about living in harmony with bears stop by the Soldotna Fish and Game office or call 262-9368.

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