Nuisance problem tough to bear

Posted: Friday, May 28, 2004

Peninsula residents have been having problems with hungry bruins during the last few weeks, and as a result the number of bears killed in defense of life and property (DLP) has jumped from two to six animals.

"Bears, bears, bears it seems like every time I pick up the phone it's a call about a bear. It's been keeping me very busy," said Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.

The first DLP shooting took place in March when a seismic worker near Anchor Point killed a brown bear sow that attacked after she was accidentally flushed from her den.

The second DLP shooting was May 11 when a Ninilchik resident dispatched a male brown bear that was drawn to livestock.

"The bear killed six of the neighbors' chickens and then 10 chickens that belonged to the people who shot him," Lewis said.

On May 15, the third shooting occurred in the Snug Harbor Road area of Cooper Landing. A black bear hunter was hiking back to his camp when he was charged by a large male brown bear. The man reported to Fish and Game that he yelled, waved his arms and did his best to dissuade the bear from approaching, but that it kept on coming.

"The bear was only 18 paces away when the guy made the decision to shoot it," said Lewis after investigating the scene of the incident.

In addition to the mounting brown bear mortalities, three black bears have been killed in DLP situations so far this year one bear early in the year in Homer and two bears last weekend in Seward.

This many DLP shootings so early in the season have Fish and Game personnel concerned, particularly since they come in the wake of 18 brown bears killed last year the highest number of reported shootings on record with Fish and Game.

In addition to investigating the DLPs, Lewis already has had to relocate a problem male brown bear that was getting into trash near the boat launch in Cooper Landing. Lewis has also been busy responding to a barrage of bruin-related calls and reports, many of which he said could have been avoided.

"Attractants are the common theme and many of them are the same old thing. People saying, 'I didn't think it would be me' or, 'I've been here 30 years and I've never had any problems doing it this way,'" Lewis said.

These attracts are typically improperly stored food items, according to Lewis, such as bird seed and suet, dog food and livestock food, barbecue grills and their drippings, salmon egg curing stations and the most common of all items bags or cans of garbage.

"Basically if it looks, tastes or smells like food, you're going to have bear problems," Lewis said.

Furthermore, bears often will return time after time to a food source such as a Dumpster, neighborhood or campground where they have found food before. Fish and Game can offer advice on how to cope with an ongoing problem, but they say it's far easier to prevent the problem in the first place.

"Preventing bear problems is everyone's responsibility and people have to learn to help themselves," said Lewis. He recommends the best way to do this is for people to survey their homes and yards with an eye for anything that could possibly attract a bear. Anything that could attract a bear should be cleaned up and put away inside secure buildings or bear-proof containers.

"We're always here to help as well," Lewis said and pointed out that Fish and Game has numerous resources available to the general public about preventing bear problems.

"We're also happy to answer questions by phone, or when possible, come out and survey a person's property to point out attractants, or look for anything they may have overlooked," said Lewis.

For more information, call Fish and Game at 262-9368.

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