Bears sighted within city limits of Kenai

Food attracting bruins to homes

Posted: Monday, July 17, 2000

The Kenai Police Department was forced to kill a black bear not far from Kenai Central High School a week ago today after it made a nuisance of itself.

"This time of year, the force that drives or attracts bears is food," said Officer Dave Vroman. "Food to some of these bears is unattended garbage cans, dog food on decks and porches, salmon smoke houses and suet ball bird feeders."

The black bear he shot was attracted to the Buzzell residence on East Aliak Street, by bird feeders, Vroman said.

"The bear was after these suet ball feeders that were suspended between an elevated deck to the trees," Vroman said. "People underestimate the cleverness of bears. They're very intelligent and this one was up on the deck doing the one-paw swing trying to get these balls down."

Homeowners Harvey and Jo-an Buzzell said the bear clawed its way up to their deck, which has no stairs, 6-feet off the ground, and then proceeded to walk along the 6-inch-wide railing to reach the bird feeders, which were variously filled with bird seed, peanut butter or suet.

The Buzzells said the bear first showed up on the morning of July 9.

"My wife looked out and saw him on the deck. I was afraid he was going to get into the house," Harvey Buzzell said. "That's when we called 911."

"The police showed up right away and shot firecrackers at him," Jo-an Buzzell said.

However, the bear came back later that day, she said, and again on Monday evening, when it was subsequently shot.

Vroman said the bear, an adult male, was severely underweight and appeared to have been previously wounded.

"In hunter lingo, he would have spread 6-feet or better, and he should have weighed 175-200 pounds, but he didn't weight more than 125 pounds," Vroman said.

He said the bear had an injury on its left side that was in the process of healing. He speculated the bear had been shot and wounded.

"He was not your average bear," Vroman said. "Most black bears would have run from me, but this one was not going to back off."

He said he got within 8-feet of the bear when it turned away from the bag of garbage it was eating and hissed at him.

"He jumped on the side of a tree and was slapping it and had his ears back," Vroman said. "He was giving me serious warning that I was too close. That's when I shot him."

He said bears also have been sighted recently in the Pillars Subdivision, the Beaver Creek area, Susieana Lane and on Rance Court. Last month, a bear was spotted at the edge of downtown near the bluff. Many of the bears are passing through subdivisions on their way to salmon streams to feed, however, the Rance Court bear was attracted to dog food.

"That's something to be mindful of; if your dog is not eating, pick up his food, especially for people who boarder wilderness," Vroman said. "We're asking residents of the city and surrounding ares to be mindful of these things that attract the bears."

He said that while people do have the right to kill bears in protection of their life and property, they should call the authorities first.

"Call Fish and Game, Fish and Wildlife Protection or the police. We have experience dealing with bears," he said. "And it will alleviate a person from problems of discharging firearms in the city limits and it's better for us to deal with problems from shooting bears."

Vroman said if anyone decided to take matters into their own hands, he recommends nothing less than a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot, which is what he used to dispatch the bruin on Aliak Street.

"A .357 (caliber) handgun sounds like a good choice, but it is underpowered for an animal with the muscle structure and tenacity of a bear," he said. "If you're not properly equipped, don't think you can go chase a bear off with a broom.

"He may run off and he may not, and if he doesn't, you'll be in a bad situation," he said. "Bears don't take a back seat to a cat on the way they can move."

He said if you stumble across a bear, do not run from it, as it will trigger its natural instinct to chase you.

"Even a bear that's not inclined to attack you may, if you turn around and run screaming from it," he said.

He recommends talking loudly to the bear and moving off slowly to a car or in the house to call authorities.

He said bears are around all the time but would rather not have anything to do with people.

Vroman said garbage should be cleaned up, dog food brought indoors if it's uneaten, and fish smokers should be attended while in operation and the fish brought inside as soon as its done.

"It's usually our fault if bears come around."

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