The Memorial Day holiday was a bad weekend to be a bear, as three bruins lost their lives in separate incidents, and a fourth bear had to be put down in defense of life and property, or DLP, this past Tuesday.
"That's six so far," said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in regard to the number of bears involved in human-caused mortalities not related to legal harvesting.
The first bear in 2008 involved in a DLP shooting was a sub-adult female brownie shot May 4 at a residence roughly 14 miles down Funny River Road. The bear repeatedly had gotten in a freezer, despite the homeowner taking several precautions to keep it out. The second DLP shooting took place May 13 off Crooked Creek Road in Kasilof. A man walking with his dog felt threatened and shot the bruin.
"The third was a 5-year-old shot at a black bear baiting site in Cooper Landing. The hunter was going out to check the bait when the bear charged," Selinger said in regard to the first Memorial weekend DLP.
The second bear was shot by hikers spending the holiday on the Resurrection Pass Trail, but Selinger said details of this incident and statistics about the bear killed are still being investigated.
"The third bear killed was a 5- to 6-year-old male illegally shot by a hunter off of Snug Harbor Road. He had mistaken it for black bear," Selinger said.
The hunter immediately contacted Fish and Game upon realizing his mistake.
The most recent DLP shooting on May 3 involved a 3-year-old male in the VIP subdivision of Kenai.
"We got a call it was attacking a dog," Selinger said.
He immediately left for the scene with other Fish and Game personnel, and en route to the location they saw the bear on the move in the subdivision.
"It cut across the road and we saw it approaching a woman with other dogs. It was moving right toward her. We got between her and the bear, but it showed no hesitation and no sign of leaving, so I made the call to put it down," he said.
Selinger said he believed it was the right decision based not only on the bear's lack of fear of humans, but also because they were able to make the killing shot in an area of the residential neighborhood that was safe to fire on the animal.
Selinger said based on a tell-tale marker, the bear shot in VIP also is suspected to be the same one he received reports of earlier in the week, when it was observed near the mouth of the Kasilof River.
"It had a Kwikfish fishing lure in its rump," he said.
In other bear activity, Selinger said a trio of bears -- a sow with two older cubs -- have been making appearances between Strawberry Road and North Dogwood Drive in Kenai.
"They've been on people's porches and in yards. We'll keep tabs on them and the Kenai Police Department is informed, but people should be careful," Selinger said.
This is the same area where a man was mauled by a bear -- a sow defending her cubs -- on April 18. However, Selinger said most negative bear incidents can be avoided with reasonable efforts to minimize attractants. These include having garbage in bear-resistant containers and making frequent trips to the dump to haul it off. Chest freezers full of fish, moose and other food items should be secured with ratchet straps or locking latches, he said.
Native birds should be provided only with a bird bath, not seed or suet in summer, and any winter leftovers should be thoroughly cleaned. Residents also should make sure beehives and livestock -- such as pigs, goats, chickens and rabbits -- are protected with electric fencing and that livestock and pet feed are indoors or stored in a secure place.
As fishing season begins, fish waste should be properly disposed -- not just dumped in remote or seemingly remote areas, such as down undeveloped or dead-end streets near neighborhoods, Selinger said.
For more information on bear safety or to make a report, call Fish and Game at 262-9368.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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