Be wary, bears everywhere

Another brownie shot, others causing trouble around homes

Posted: Friday, May 25, 2007

“Bears everywhere” is a good way to describe bruin activity this past week, and as a result the Kenai Peninsula recorded another bear shot in defense of life or property.

“We had a DLP at a bait site off of Swanson River Road last Thursday,” said Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

As the events of the incident were relayed to him, Lewis said a black bear hunter sitting in a 12-foot tree stand over a bait station brought in several bears, including a huge brownie boar and two sets of brown bear sows with two cubs each.

“A sow with a couple of older cubs immediately came up the tree after the hunter,” Lewis said.

The hunter was able to kick the bear down and out of the tree once, but when she immediately started up for him again the hunter shot the bear from point-blank range.

“It sounded like he was definitely defending his life at that point,” Lewis said.

Lewis said it was unusual that so many brown bears came into the site, and all at once, especially considering the hunters hadn’t seen a brownie there before the incident.

“They had a camera set up, and until that night every bear that came to that site was a black bear,” he said.

Lewis said the only thing hunters could have done to reduce the possibility of attracting brown bears was used different and smaller bait.

“They were using large baits of old bagels and doughnuts,” he said.

Lewis recommends starting initially with dog food and cheap maple syrup as the initial draw, and switching to a molasses-based horse food once a bear hits. This is still in small amounts, roughly a five-gallon bucket every few days with holes in the container so a bear will have to work to get the bait out.

This most recent DLP makes the third in three weeks. The first DLP shooting this year took place two weeks ago when a brownie charged a lone man hunting for moose antlers in Ninilchik, then last week another brown bear was shot in Sterling after threatening a homeowner’s chained-up dog.

A brown bear with the injured front left leg that was making appearances last week between Strawberry Road and the Valhalla Heights and Shaginoff subdivisions has this week been reported moving between the areas of Sport Lake Road and Mackey Lake Road.

“From the reports it sounds like the same animal,” Lewis said.

A week earlier Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist with Fish and Game, speculated this injured bear may be the same brown bear that, as a 2-year-old cub, was orphaned with two siblings after their mother was shot on the Russian River in 2005. The three cubs were captured and tagged after the sow’s death. One was never heard from again, one was killed by Fish and Game in Sterling last year after an unknown person shot the animal, shattering its leg bone and leaving it for dead, and one periodically made appearances between the Russian River and Suzy’s Cafe in Sterling.

A homeowner off Mackey Lake Road had a close encounter with a brown bear Monday evening after it followed his small lap dog back to the house, but Lewis said it was unclear if it was the bruin with the injured leg.

“The bear stuck its arm through the doggy door and was scooping to get the dog. The homeowner got a gun and fired through the front door, but didn’t hit (the bear),” he said.

After investigating, Lewis said he determined the bear had gotten into garbage left out by the homeowner’s next-door neighbor prior to going after the dog.

“I can’t say it enough, what you do affects a bear’s behavior and what it will do around other people it will encounter. Leaving out garbage affects everyone’s safety. It’s negligence and it’s dangerous,” he said.

Jill Garnett, a Kasilof-based musher, had a close call with a brown bear at her home off of Crooked Creek Road on May 17.

“I heard the dogs barking and looked outside. I saw the fur and knew it wasn’t a moose,” she said.

Garnett described the bear as young, possibly 2 to 3 years old, and a little uncertain of itself. She said it circled her dog yard then stood staring at her from roughly 30 feet away for a long time before finally moving off without incident.

“It never huffed or stomped or anything,” she said.

Still, Garnett brought her 13 dogs into the house for the evening.

Bears also expressed an interest in livestock this past week. Steve Donnelly, who lives off of East Redoubt Avenue, behind Great Bear Ford in Soldotna, said he had a brown bear cause damage to a chicken coop early Tuesday morning.

“He came in around 5 a.m. and tore the window out, tore our insulation and tore down a heat lamp,” he said.

Donnelly said the livestock was not surrounded by an electrical fence because he had kept them at the location for many years and never had problems. Just down the street from Donnelly, Lisa Schmitter said a brown bear fitting the same description showed up at her house Tuesday morning attempting to get pigs her daughter is raising for 4-H, and she did have an electric fence around them.

“The bear would approach the fence, touch it with his nose and get shocked, and then back off,” she said.

Schmitter said the bear tested the fence for close to 30 minutes and eventually began to respond to just the crackling sound of electricity as it got close. She said she knew the electric fence would protect the pigs since, after losing honey bee hives for several years, she put one around her insects two years ago and hasn’t had a problem with bears getting into them since.

“Purchasing the initial equipment can be an expense, but what you don’t loose in livestock afterward more than makes up for it,” she said.

Schmitter added another perk of the electric fence is bears don’t have to be shot.

“This is their home, too,” she said.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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