A bear next to Bridge Access Road in Kenai Wednesday morning about 9 a.m. gave wildlife watchers a thrill and snarled traffic.
But the juvenile brownie is probably not the only bear in town, and having the big bruins so close to people is a cause for concern and caution, said Kenai Police Officer Dave Vroman.
"Bears are not always threatening, but they should always be treated with respect," he said. "A person cannot appreciate the speed of a bear unless they have seen it. They are as quick as a cat."
Kenai police and others involved in public safety and wildlife management do not want bears getting shot -- or people getting mauled -- he stressed.
This time of year, bears, brown and black, are coming to the Kenai River and other waterways to fish. They move from high ground to the water on a daily feeding circuit, usually following corridors such as creeks and gullies. In Kenai, they travel behind the Central Heights Subdivision, along Beaver Creek and near Site 17 along the Kenai Spur Highway.
"We have multiple sightings every year," Vroman said.
The only unusual thing about Wednesday's bear was its casual attitude about people. It was not aggressive and seemed to be trying to cross the highway toward the river mouth before the traffic spooked it. It was the human equivalent of a teenage bear, an age group prone to reckless exploration.
"That is why he was where he was. He was not exercising good judgment," Vroman said. "He's the kind that will end up on somebody's porch eating dog food or tipping over a smokehouse."
Vroman tracked the bear off the flats and across Beaver Loop Road. As of Wednesday afternoon, it seemed to be moving toward the Central Heights Subdivision.
Most bears avoid people and are stealthy in their travels.
"Any patch of woods can contain a bear," he warned.
Vroman advised Kenai Peninsula people everywhere, and especially those living near the bears' travel corridors and salmon streams, to be wary this time of year. He offered these tips:
n Get rid of anything around your home that would attract bears, including garbage, pet food or fish guts. Take garbage to the dump promptly and keep pet food indoors.
n If you see a bear in your neighborhood or yard, don't panic but get safe. Go indoors or into a car. Do not, under any circumstances, turn and run. Call police or troopers, because law enforcement personnel need to know where the bears are.
n If you see a bear while you are driving and want to observe it, remain in your car, but get as far out of traffic as possible.
n If you see a mother bear with cubs, avoid the area. Protective mothers are extremely dangerous and should not be approached under any circumstances.
n If the bear gets into a situation dangerous to people or property, call 911. Do not try to handle the situation yourself. Dispatchers will summon the proper people to remove the bear from the area or otherwise deal with the threat.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.