Anchorage bear deaths decline

Posted: Monday, October 07, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Just five black bears and one brown bear were killed in Anchorage this year, the lowest number since the early 1990s.

With only a few weeks left until bears start digging winter dens, the number of bear complaints also has decreased.

The reason may have more to do with people than bears, said state biologist Rick Sinnott. For years, wildlife advocates have urged people to keep garbage, birdseed and pet food away from bears. This summer, conservation groups and the state launched educational campaigns, and it all may be paying off, Sinnott said.

''My guess is it's at least partly attributable to more people being more careful,'' he said.

Volunteers coordinated by the Defenders of Wildlife went door to door over the summer and handed out nearly 4,000 pamphlets with advice, said program associate Karen Deatherage. Some residents even tattled on neighbors whose sloppy habits attracted bears.

''There's a lot of peer pressure in some neighborhoods,'' she said. ''I think people are becoming aware.''

At least 94 people complained about black bears in the trash, according to a log of calls to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and city police. Another 17 people reported bears raiding bird feeders and 12 complained of bears killing or harassing livestock.

The animals killed this season included three black bears shot by residents after the animals became too bold and could not be run off, Sinnott wrote in a report. A brown bear was shot Aug. 13 by Alaska State Trooper Bill Welch at the Little Bears Playhouse day care in Girdwood after it repeatedly charged people gathered at the fire station next door.

The number of reports of black bears near housing declined by 25 percent, from 359 through Aug. 31, 2001, to 267 through Aug. 31 of this year, according to Fish and Game's Anchorage assistant biologist Jessy Coltrane. About 14 individual bears known to Coltrane and Sinnott caused about one-fifth of the calls.

''Pretty much it's the same trends, but there have been a lot less calls this year,'' she said.

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