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Bruins awake, active on Kenai Peninsula

Posted: Friday, May 11, 2007

Editor’s note: In an effort to help educate the public on bear safety, the Clarion and Alaska Department of Fish and Game have teamed up to publish information on bear activity in the area. A new update will be provided each week.

  A 3- to 4-year-old brown bear, believed to be a male, searches for a meal in garbage cans on Midway Drive in Sterling near the Sterling Post Office on Thursday. "He was foraging house to house," said Larry Lewis, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna. Photo courtesy of Larry Lewis.

 

A 3- to 4-year-old brown bear, believed to be a male, searches for a meal in garbage cans on Midway Drive in Sterling near the Sterling Post Office on Thursday. "He was foraging house to house," said Larry Lewis, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.

Photo courtesy of Larry Lewis.

The bears are no longer just starting to wake from their wintery slumber. They are wide awake and making their presence known in almost every area of the Kenai Peninsula.

“And in every instance it’s been brown bears that people are seeing,” said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Last Friday afternoon around Mile 106 of the Sterling Highway a brown bear was hit by a car, he said.

Selinger said the report of the collision did not come to Fish and Game by the person who struck the bear. Instead it came from someone who witnessed the event, several days later, so details related to the incident were sketchy.

“Apparently, it was a brown bear with two cubs in tow. She got hit, rolled, and then walked off,” he said.

Selinger said he, along with Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician at Fish and Game, went to the scene to investigate and determine the extent of the animal’s injuries. They walked several miles on both sides of the highway but did not find hide nor hair of the banged-up bruin.

“We saw no bear tracks or evidence at all, but since we were going on second-hand evidence, we’re not entirely sure we were in the right place,” he said.

The second report this week came from approximately Mile 35 of the Kenai Spur Highway past Nikiski where a brown bear had attempted to gain access to a barn Sunday night and again Monday night.

“It came around a few nights. It ripped a few boards down trying to get into the barn, and it killed a few chickens and a turkey,” Selinger said.

Selinger investigated the incident Tuesday and provided the homeowner with several tips for managing livestock to prevent bear problems.

The first brown bear killed in defense of life or property (DLP) was shot on Monday off of Brody Road near Ninilchik.

“An individual was out antler hunting, when he was charged by a four- to five-year-old female brown bear from about 35 yards. He said there was no time for a warning shot and put the bear down at about 15 yards,” Selinger said.

On Monday a brown bear was reported to be defending a moose carcass off of Seclusion Street off Brown’s Lake Road in the Funny River area.

“It’s about 150 feet off of Seclusion. The person who reported it said they heard what sounded like dogs. When they went to check it out, coyotes were harassing the bear for the kill. It’s uncertain, though, whether it secured the moose, or if the moose was already dead and the bear was scavenging the carcass.” Selinger said.

On Tuesday a brown bear sow with two cubs gained access to a pen with domestic pigeons at Solid Rock Bible Camp, and there were two separate reports of brown bears in the East Mackey Lake area.

“In one of the reports the bears tipped over a Dumpster,” Selinger said.

“They fit the description of the bears that were hanging around the Longmere Lake area, but it could be different bears, too. It’s hard to say for certain,” Selinger said.

On Thursday a 3- to 4-year-old brown bear, believed to be a male, was searching for a meal in garbage cans on Midway Drive in Sterling, near the Sterling Post Office.

“He was foraging house to house,” Lewis said.

While this may sound like a lot of bear activity, Selinger said it really is not.

“I can’t emphasize enough that this is not unusual. This is a common number of reports for this time of year, so people shouldn’t be bear scared. That’s not our intention,” he said

Rather than becoming frightened, Selinger said people should become more proactive in reducing attractants around their homes and neighborhoods.

“We’re just trying to address an issue we’ve seen in this area year after year by making it more public so people understand the issue more. I think it’s important people know how serious this is, and by keeping them informed it is our hope they will take the simple measures to reduce problems and increase everyone’s overall safety,” he said.

According to Selinger, the main way to minimize attractants is to have garbage in bear-proof containers and to make frequent trips to the dump to haul it off. Chest freezers full of fish, moose and other food should be secured with locking latches, he said.

In summer, native birds should be provided only with a bird bath, not seed or suet. People should make sure livestock — such as pigs, goats, chickens and rabbits — are protected with electric fencing and that livestock and pet feed is stored in a secure place, he said.

Selinger said communities should police themselves by neighbors encouraging each other to minimize attractants and reporting people who are leaving out attractants that pose a threat. Most people are good about preventing these kinds of bear problems in their community, but it only takes one to ruin it for everyone, according to Selinger.

“We want to hear more from the public on people being careless, so we can improve the situation,” Selinger said.

For more information on bear safety or to make a report, contact Fish and Game at 262-9368.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.



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