Attraction to non-natural food leaves 2 bruins dead

Garbage, bird shot, bears not a good mix

Posted: Friday, July 13, 2007

Two more brown bears were killed in defense of life and property (DLP) during the past two weeks, bringing the number of human-caused mortalities for bears on the Kenai Peninsula to 13, nine of which have been females.

One of the two most recent bears killed was a yearling female that had been raiding garbage cans and Dumpsters along with a sow and another sibling for several days off of Beaver Loop Road in Kenai. None of the trash receptacles were bear resistant. Their foraging for non-natural food came to an end off of Dolchok Lane on July 6 when one of the bears challenged a responding officer from the Kenai Police Department.

Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, performed a field necropsy on the dead bruin and said it had been feeding on items a wild bear should not have been eating.

"It was clear this wasn't the first time the bear had been into garbage," he said.

Lewis said the shame of the bear's death is bear-resistant receptacles are available for purchase through Industrial Refuse or Alaska Waste at a cost of $50 for people living within the city of Kenai, down from the normal retail price of $250.

"The equipment is available, people just need to take the initiative. A fifty dollars investment might have saved this bear's life," he said.

The second DLP took place in Kasilof on Tuesday, but it was the end of a series of events that began late Monday on July 9. According to Lewis, a homeowner off of Elaine Avenue, off of South Cohoe Loop Road, awoke to a brown bear in his yard late in the evening.

"He went out to investigate and he said he shot the bear to defend his property and his life," Lewis said.

Upon investigating the incident, however, Lewis said he found several unusual elements.

"There were 200 chickens and ducks, dog food, open garbage — just numerous attractants on site and no proactive measures," he said.

Lewis said what the man used to dispatch the bear and how he used it also were questionable.

"Unfortunately he shot the bear in the hind end using No. 2 bird shot," he said.

Using such a light load was a bad idea, Lewis said.

"This makes a very dangerous situation. It puts everyone living in that neighborhood at a higher level of risk and someone could have been hurt or killed tracking the bear to dispatch it properly," he said.

Lewis ended up being that someone to track the bear the next day. After following its trail for more than three hours, he found the injured animal — a 4-year-old female — and deemed it necessary to put it down with a shotgun slug.

"People need to understand that if they make a choice to shoot at a bear, they shoot to kill, not to wound," he said.

Details of the incident have been turned over to Alaska State Troopers, who are investigating the shooting, Lewis said.

Brown bears also were reported in downtown Soldotna recently. Lewis said Thursday that he responded to numerous calls about a brown bear in the area around Binkley Street.

"This was in the middle of the day at a four-way intersection, so people should keep in mind that bears can be anywhere, and always be aware of their surroundings," he said.

Lewis said the Ciechanski Road area also has been a hotspot of brown bear activity of late, so people in this area should especially exercise caution.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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