Bears making rounds

Posted: Friday, October 20, 2000

Kenai police are warning residents to use a little more caution during outdoor activities this week due to recent bear sightings in the city limits.

The department issued the warning Wednesday after brown bear sightings at various locations around town, including Marathon Road as well as in the Wortham Road area near the Kenai River.

Kenai police Sgt. Kim Wannamaker said the most recent sighting came Wednesday, when a jogger reported a brown bear near Mile 6 of the Kenai Spur Highway near North Dogwood Street.

"She just happened on a bear that was preoccupied with something dead on the road," Wannamaker said, "and she thought a detour would be best."

Wannamaker said the department also has gotten calls from residents who have had trash strewn around their yards.

"They've definitely let their presence be known," Wannamaker said of the bears. "They're scavenging for whatever they can find."

Bears are becoming more active this month because their food supply is running out, and they are preparing for the denning period, said Ted Spraker, Kenai-area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Spraker said the department has received only one call this week involving a bear in the Kenai area, and it was to report a sighting.

"Pure and simple, they're running out of food," Spraker said. "The crop of berries are all frozen and the little bit of snow in the high country is covering the bushes. Plus, the fish are either pretty much gone or hard to catch."

Spraker said the department gets between six and 12 calls this time of year to report bears. Most are brown bears and most get into garbage.

"They're moving around quite a bit this year in search of that last little bit of food," Spraker said. "Many times that is in someone's garbage. And once they find it, they will not go away."

Spraker urged residents to take the usual precautions in keeping bears from the enticing aromas of household trash.

"One of the best things to do is to haul it out on a regular basis," Spraker said. "And try to spray out the cans with Lysol or something that contains ammonia."

He also offered another tip for those preparing to haul their garbage: don't put the trash in the truck until you are ready to head for the landfill.

"We've seen several cases of bears climbing in and out of trucks over a period of time to get at the garbage in the back," Spraker said. "And when the owner comes out the next morning, he's looking at a new paint job."

Wannamaker said bear reports can be sporadic and cover a broad area.

"The sightings vary," Wannamaker said. "We'll get a batch in one neighborhood, then two weeks later get several from a totally different area. They are probably the same bears, just wandering."

Spraker said the home range of the bear is impressive.

"It's huge -- in the range of 400 to 500 square miles," Spraker said. "The same bear could make the rounds from Kenai to Sterling to Kasilof and be seen by plenty of people if he's active."

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