Garbage, dog food, bird feeders have a few bruins putting off hibernation

Some bears not ready for sleep yet

Posted: Friday, November 09, 2001

A few of the Kenai Peninsula's resident bruins have been staying up past their bedtime, and it's causing some problems around the central peninsula.

"It's just a couple of bears creating problems," said Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.

"One bear can be a pretty good nuisance, and we've had a few episodes. I thought it would be over with. Over the weekend, we moved three bears, and I thought things would shut down and I could start taking care of moose. But I got another call Monday."

Lewis said that the three relocated brown bears, a sow and her two cubs, were rummaging through the Thompson Park subdivision off the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai.

Monday's call, Lewis said, came from a woman who had a bear around her house all night.

"She had a bear on the front porch, turned the light on, and the bear jumped on the door," Lewis said. "Fortunately, she had some sort of wrought iron security door, but she had just moved here, had no phone, her husband was on the Slope and she had a baby in the house.

"It's the same old deal. There was garbage out in the back of the truck, and the bear found it."

Lewis said the woman was trying to be conscientious. Most of the trash was moving-related, it was in plastic bins, she had just taken it out and she was planning to take it to the transfer station first thing in the morning.

Lewis said the bear returned to the house Tuesday and escaped from a trap set for it. Lewis set up a bigger trap Wednesday, but said he was hoping the encounter with the first trap educated the bruin to stay away from the house.

"We had our first brown bear incident March 14. It was a bear that got into some food coolers, and here we are, eight months later, still dealing with garbage bears," Lewis said. "It's a simple message -- don't leave garbage out. If it's not bears, it's going to be moose.

"The only reason these animals are out is because they're finding food."

Lewis said that the few bears causing problems are isolated incidents, and that most of the peninsula's bear population has settled into dens for the winter.

"(Fish and Game biologist) Ted Spraker has been flying moose surveys for the past three days, and he's not finding any bear tracks," Lewis said. "This is an isolated incident, what I would call people problems."

Lewis said the reason a few bears are out and about is because they are being rewarded by the food they're finding in people's yards in the form of garbage, dog food and bird feeders, and not because of early snowfall or high water on the Kenai River making it difficult to find food during the fall.

"I hate to preach, but if I had my wish, people would behave as though there were bears out year-round as far as leaving attractants out in the yard," Lewis said. "I was out there at night, driving around looking for one of the cubs with a spotlight, and every driveway I looked down, I saw something that will attract a bear. You always hear the same old story, 'We've been here blank number of years, and we've never had a problem,' but it catches up to people."

Besides keeping garbage and dog food out of the yard, Lewis cautioned people about bird feeders.

"I hate to tell people not to hang feeders because there's a lot of pleasure derived from watching birds, but they do cause problems," Lewis said. "Never put them on the deck -- that draws bears right up to the house. Hang them away from the house, and hang them up high enough that moose and bears can't reach them."

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