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Attacks on outdoor freezers leave 1 bear on ice

Once learned, bad bruin behavior difficult to correct

Posted: Friday, July 20, 2007

The number of bears killed in defense of life and property in the central Kenai Peninsula keeps climbing, as another week has passed and another brown bear was shot.

This most recent incident — involving a 5 to 6-year-old male brownie — brings the number of human-caused mortalities of bears up to 14 for the year, according to Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

"This one was breaking into a gentleman's freezer," he said.

The shooting took place at roughly 3 a.m. at a home off of McCollum Drive, off the Kenai Spur Highway, across from Tinker Lane. Lewis said the dead bear wasn't the only bruin to make an appearance that morning.

"According to the man, he heard a commotion and looked outside to see two bears standing in the road and one feeding out of a stand-up freezer that had been tipped on its side," he said.

Lewis said when the man went out to run the bears off with a firearm, he found out there were more bears that he had first counted.

"He went outside to fire a warning shot and out of his peripheral vision he saw something move. It was another bear coming at him, so he shot it in defense of his life," he said.

Lewis said he went out to investigate in the early morning hours and followed the other three bears into a heavily wooded area at the back of the neighborhood. He never caught up with them, but he saw evidence of their path and heard reports from numerous others who did, as well.

Lewis said one incident in particular stood out as an example of how quickly a bear learning bad behavior at one location can lead to problems for everyone living close by. A resident living not far from the shooting just had a new chest freezer delivered. Nothing had been put in it yet so it didn't have the smell of frozen fish or meat, yet the bears still found it too irresistible not to investigate with their teeth and claws.

"The report I got was the bears were just throttling it," he said.

Lewis said bear problems have continued in several areas at the end of Ciechanski Road.

"In the Tall Timber, Castaway Cove, River Quest an River Bend areas there's a brown bear going house to house, cabin to cabin and RV to RV. The bear's gotten into garbage, dog food, bird seed, smokers — all the usual things," he said.

Lewis said the VIP subdivision and surrounding area of Kenai, the Mackey Lake area of Soldotna and the Longmere Lake area of Sterling have recently also been hot spots for bears raiding garbage cans and Dumpsters without bear-resistant lids.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.



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