Officials: Give wildlife space

Posted: Monday, May 24, 2010

There might still be a nip in the air, but for area wildlife, spring has come. Moose have started to calve and bears have emerged from winter dens -- a reminder for people to give wildlife some space.

Homer Police and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game already have received calls about wildlife. In the past week, police had calls of a black bear in a garage on West Thomas Street and a black bear on a roof on Kachemak Drive. Probably the same black bear caused small traffic jams on East End Road as it sat in a tree by the road on Monday. Fish and Game wildlife biologist Thomas McDonough said he got about 50 calls about that black bear.

"There's definitely bears out and about and getting on people's porches and into garbage," he said.

To keep from attracting bears, McDonough recommended taking down bird feeders, not putting human food in compost bins and keeping trash secure in closed garages, sheds and bear-resistant garbage cans.

Newborn moose calves also have been seen, with reports of dogs chasing moose cows and calves. Defending their young can stress cows already lean from the winter.

"It's definitely not good," McDonough said. "Even though things are greening up, they're still in bad body condition."

Don't assume that a calf seen without its mother has been abandoned, McDonough said. Cows often leave calves to go off and feed, sometimes for hours.

"Leave the calf alone and keep your pets controlled. More often than not there is a cow that will come back," McDonough said. "If (the calf) gets disturbed, it will move, and then it's harder for the cow to find it when it comes back. That's why it's important to not approach it and leave it alone."

Several times over the years well-meaning citizens in Homer have picked up calves believed to be orphaned and brought them to police, Chief Mark Robl said.

By then it's too late to reunite the calf with its mother and the calf has to be destroyed.

A calf that's bleating or crying is trying to call its mother. Getting close to a crying calf could mean a defensive cow will pop onto the scene, McDonough said.

City and state laws prohibit attracting bears. By city ordinance, individuals can be fined $250-$500 for intentionally attracting bears and $50-$300 for unintentionally attracting bears.

State law prohibits the intentional, as well as the negligent feeding of game, including black and brown bears, with a $300 fine.

Another option to deter bears is an electric fence.

"Electric fences are very effective at keeping bears out of anything you want to keep them out of, whether it's beehives or chicken coops."

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