Smarter than the average bear ...

Posted: Friday, July 15, 2005

No matter where you turn, it seems there's someone creating problems for humans and ideal situations for bears on the central peninsula.

Recently, piles of flatfish and overstuffed garbage cans were found in places where bears could easily sniff their way to dining bonanzas.

While this may be quite a find for the bears, it doesn't bode well for us — especially if we encounter the bears on an innocent stroll along the beach or walk through the park. In fact, the combination spells disaster, and possibly even tragedy.

Bears that find easy pickings become conditioned to such situations, meaning they lose their fear of people.

A Kenai neighborhood ran into the same problems a couple of years ago. Someone was dumping fish guts at the end of a dirt road, and bears started to make a nuisance of themselves. They got into anything that wasn't secured or put away, like dog food and trash.

The solution was a program administered by Alaska Department of Fish and Game: bear-proof neighborhoods. Streets were patrolled, temptations secured and special trash cans were brought in and tested. The result was a significant drop in bear run-ins and complaints. In fact, those that were seen were just passing through.

Making our neighborhoods safer and keeping the bears out of our reach is within our power. While we're all in the wild together, and there's no guarantee a bear won't cross our path, it certainly doesn't hurt to make sure we're not the ones drawing them into our midst.

Fish and Game Area Manager Jeff Selinger has had his share of bear encounters and learning how to avoid them. For those who lose livestock and poultry to the marauders, he recommends electrical fencing.

"I don't know of one incident where a bear got through a properly working electric fence," Selinger told us.

That's a powerful deterrent.

For attractants such as fish waste, barbecue grills, pet food, suet and bird seed, Selinger says to store these items in a secure location.

Let's face it, if a hamburger and fries were offered to us in plain sight, we'd most likely pick that over going to the fridge and making a healthy meal. It's human nature — and bear nature.

It may take a little more effort to shut the lid on the trash can, but in the long run it's easier than having to clean up the mess a bruin leaves behind.

Be smart and safe.

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