Fish dumping stops, but bears still linger

Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2002

While the dumping of fish carcasses appears to have stopped, brown bears continue to frequent a North Dogwood Road neighborhood in Kenai.

Vicki Thompson, who posted signs in her neighborhood in an attempt to have people stop dumping fish carcasses, said the signs seem to be working because she is no longer seeing the fish being dumped.

"But now, the bears are coming out even during the day. They were staying down over the ridge, but now they're coming up into the neighborhood, right up to Dogwood," she said.

Someone had dumped large amounts of salmon and halibut carcasses in a wooded area laced with a network of ATV trails adjacent to North Dogwood Road. The carcasses attracted brown bears, and Thompson placed homemade posters along the trails asking the dumpers to stop and warning people of the bear danger.

Kenai police said they also have increased patrols in the area to try to catch the person or persons dumping the fish.

A booklet currently being distributed to 24,000 Kenai Peninsula households reminds readers it is against the law to feed bears.

"The law states, 'No person may intentionally feed a moose, bear, wolf, coyote or wolverine, or negligently leave human or pet food or garbage in a manner that attracts these animals,'" according to the "Living In Harmony With Bears" booklet.

"The Board of Game changed the wording of that law last year to read 'negligently,'" said John Schoen, senior scientist for Audubon Alaska, one of several sponsors of the free bear booklet.

"It's part of the conservation strategy Fish and Game came up with," he said.

In fact, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and Audubon Alaska are all among groups listed as publication supporters on back of the booklet, which was produced by the Alaska Natural History Association to help people learn to coexist with bears.

"We produced the booklet because we felt the bear situation needs an awareness and education effort," Schoen said.

"There are not too many brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula. They are listed as a population of special concern, which is an administrative listing to flag the situation," he said.

In its effort to protect bears and people alike, the booklet warns "a fed bear is a dead bear."

"Bears seek out the same wild foods in the same places year after year," the booklet states. "Bears conditioned to eating human food behave the same way. They keep returning to the same neighborhoods, campgrounds and dumpsters, until food is no longer available or until they are killed."

The North Dogwood Road neighborhood is bordered on one side by Beaver Creek, a salmon spawning stream, but Thompson is convinced that "people dumping fish carcasses" is what's attracting the bears.

The signs she posted warn of the danger and state that charges will be brought against those dumping the fish if witnesses report descriptions or vehicle license numbers to her or to Kenai police.

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