A brown bear orphaned after a sow shooting in 2003 was tranquilized and removed from behind a cafe in Sterling on Thursday.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game had received several calls from the area reporting that the bear was rummaging through trash before it was darted near the Suzie’s Cafe Dumpster at about 7 p.m.
“It kind of left a trail of destruction in its path,” said Larry Lewis, a Fish and Game wildlife technician.
The bear had plenty of food in the area to munch on and had no reason to leave, Lewis said.
“It was definitely drawn to the area because of garbage issues,” said Jeff Selinger, an area wildlife biologist with Fish and Game. “It’s a buffet table out there for bears when you have open containers or containers that are not bear resistant.”
When Selinger and Lewis arrived to dart the bear, it was playing with a mattress near the Dumpster, Selinger said.
“Rolling it around, chewing on it, putting its head on it ... (like) a teenager with a new toy,” he said.
Fish and Game identified the bear by a tag the department had placed in its ear after its mother was illegally shot near the Russian River in 2003, when the female bear and her two brothers were orphaned.
The bear probably learned to look for food where people can be found, and lost its fear of people at a young age, when it fed on fish carcasses on the Russian River, Selinger said.
“What bears are exposed to in one area they will carry over to other areas,” he said. “It wasn’t shy around people at all.”
After Selinger darted the bear, he and Lewis tracked it into woods. Local volunteers helped carry her out of the woods and Lewis and Selinger prepared it for relocation.
The bear was then taken from Sterling to an unidentified location using a pickup.
Selinger said the bear was fitted with a radio collar before it was released to give Fish and Game a better idea of what happens to bears when they are moved.
Unfortunately, relocated bears frequently return to developed areas to look for food or are sometimes killed by other bears, he said.
“In general, it’s not real productive to move them,” he said. “What we’re really trying to do is to prevent removals in the first place.”
The best way to deal with bear problems is to deal with the cause of the problem rather than deal with the symptoms, Selinger said.
He said he has responded to one or more bear incidents in six areas so far this year. And of those, only one was not garbage-related.
Thursday’s bear darting is a classic example of what happens when people do not take actions to minimize animal attractors in developed areas, he said.
To prevent bears from looking for food in developed areas, garbage should be kept in a secure building, or in bear resistant containers, Selinger said.
Livestock and livestock feed should be kept in secure buildings and-or fenced off with electric wires. At least three wires should be used, spaced approximately one to one and a half feet apart, he said.
“Ideally you have that plugged in all the time, but especially at night,” he said.
Selinger also warned against dumping fish carcasses along roadsides.
“It’s illegal and it also brings bears into close proximity to people,” he said.
Lewis said he visited businesses in the Sterling area Thursday to request they replace unsecured waste containers with bear resistant containers.
All of the businesses he talked to agreed, he said.
Although it is good to see more people take responsible measures in securing their trash, it would be even better to see more people take action before problems occur, Selinger said.
“I’d really encourage people to be proactive and not wait until something happens,” he said.
The Wildlife Conservation Community Program, a community program that promotes safer neighborhoods for people and wildlife, has helped to make affordable bear-resistant garbage containers available to communities on the peninsula.
The containers are available for purchase through Industrial Refuse or Alaska Waste at a cost of $50 for people living within the city of Kenai and roughly $190 to $200 for those living outside the city.
Industrial Refuse also offers bear-resistant Dumpsters for rent.
For more information call Industrial Refuse at 335-5055 or Alaska Waste at 283-9390.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.