Bears shot in Kenai: Sow, cubs killed after pulling trash from home

Posted: Sunday, July 04, 2010

Kenai police shot a sow brown bear and two cubs early Saturday morning after the sow repeatedly entered a residence in the Linwood Lane area.

Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Kenai Police Department Seasonal Enforcement Officers Trent Semmens, center, and Dominick Eubank, right, talk to Scott Bible during a tour of the Thompson Park neighborhood to tell residents about bear issues in the area.

The city of Kenai has declared the east side of town a "bear problem area," after several incidents over the past week.

City and state official patrols began Friday asking residents of neighborhoods from the Pillars subdivision to Beaver Loop and Angler Drive to remove garbage left outside their homes, or to secure it in bear-resistant containers. If a family cannot remove their own trash the city will remove it for them at no cost, said Rick Koch, Kenai city manager.

"We're just trying to pass on there is an emergency with this," he said. "It seems to be a very dangerous situation that is happening every night."

Kenai police responded to a 911 call on North Linwood Lane at about 1 a.m. Saturday, Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl said. A resident reported that a bear was trying to get into the home, pushing on the front door. The resident made two 911 calls.

An officer arrived, scared the bear off and remained in the area. Around 2:15 a.m., the officer drove down Fox Avenue, off of North Linwood, and saw the sow and cubs eating trash in the yard of a residence. The sow had broken through a screen door and pulled the trash into the yard.

The officer saw the sow circle around the house and re-enter the house for more garbage. The sow stuck her nose through the entry a third time. The bear and cubs were shot shortly thereafter, Sandahl said.

Sandahl said Kenai police had been in contact with Department of Fish and Game personnel before and after the incident.

According to Koch, there were 14 reported brown bear incidents from June 27 to June 29.

In addition to the sow and two cubs, reports indicate there are other trash-seeking bears -- a sow with three cubs and a solo brownie.

Police will continue to monitor the activity of the brown bears moving through the area.

"Given the bear activity, any bear sightings, residents are encouraged to call so we can track the bears," Sandahl said. He said any reported activity is forwarded to Fish and Game as well.

Bear sightings can be reported to the Kenai police at 283-7879.

Fish and Game and Kenai officials will continue their effort to remove attractants from the area.

"What we're trying to do is to get the cooperation of the public to try not to give these bears easy food sources while they're traveling through to get to natural food sources," said Larry Lewis of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation.

Lewis said in one reported incident the bear ravaged a turkey deep fryer on the back porch of a family home, with gallons of grease spilled all over.

"They literally tore the railings off his deck," he said. "There was a bunch of property damage."

In another incident, a bear ripped the door off of a shed to get at garbage that was stored inside, he said.

"Throughout these incidents bears are out for bird seed, they've damaged barbecues that are dirty and not burned off and giving off a good scent," said Sandahl, adding that fish guts are another attractant.

Lewis said this type of human behavior--negligently feeding wildlife with trash--creates a continuing cycle and conditions the bears to seek food sources from residential areas.

"The long-term effect of this is those two cubs will grow up to have the same behavior of those adults," Lewis said. "We can remove these animals from the population but it doesn't break the cycle of the human behavior that causes the problem in the first place."

Prior to Saturday morning's incidents, Lewis expressed concerned that the bears would be put down. If the animals continue with this behavior they will probably be shot, he said. One method Fish and Game has used in the past, according to Lewis, is to shoot one of the cubs so the sow will leave the area with her remaining offspring.

"There have been some reported aggressive behavior toward a dog but most of the incidents have involved the bears seeking garbage," Sandahl said. "There have been no aggressive confrontations from the bears towards humans that we have seen."

Sandahl said most of the reports of bears have been during the early morning hours.

Although residents can be fined up to $300 from the state for negligent wildlife feeding, Koch said the city would not be ticketing for garbage violations.

"I don't want to write tickets; I want to provide a better environment so this bear interaction decreases," he said. "We're going to go knock on the door and say, 'That needs to be cleaned up. This garbage constitutes an immediate safety and health issue.'"

Koch said he is especially concerned for the children that live in these residential areas.

"They are more at risk than adults for an encounter with a bear," he said.

Lewis said proper trash disposal is not just a problem for bears, but for moose as well, which can get into garbage, ingest it and die.

"I ask people to think long-term, year round and to be careful with their attractants around their yard. That will make our neighborhoods safer and reduce risks of incidents around our homes," Lewis said.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at Will Morrow contributed to this report.

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