Bears out and about; be cautious

Longer days and leaves on trees aren’t the only things that come with spring. So do hungry bears with new cubs to feed and protect.

April is dedicated as “Bear Awareness Month” in Alaska and the state Department of Fish and Game is offering some advice for reducing bear-human encounters.

At The Buzz in Ninilchik, words of caution about a black bear in the area were being shared by customers stopping for an espresso over the weekend. 

In Homer, Steve Parizek, president of Snomads, a local snowmachine club, said he heard one report of a bear sighting in the China Poot Road area and another from snowmachiners on the top of Bald Mountain who “saw five different sets of grizzly tracks. There’s a few roaming around, that’s for sure. I imagine they’ll be showing up.” 

From his work on area trails, Dave Brann has received one report of tracks that could have been a case of mistaken identify, “but it could happen anytime,” he said of bears beginning to show up.

Jason Herreman, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Homer said the department has received a few reports of bear sightings, including “one reported up above the hospital last week and one reported out toward Caribou Hills the week before.”

Some bear-sightings were reported during months when the local bruin population is supposedly hibernating.

“We had a few bears that were up at various times this winter leaving tracks on the ski trails on Diamond Ridge and out toward Olson Mountain,” said Herreman.

For the most part, what is being seen are brown bears, with one report of either a very large brown-phase black bear, which Herreman said is very rare, or a brown bear.

An ADF&G press release issued last week announcing “Bear Awareness Month” noted the increasing number of reports being received of bears in the area.

“In preparation, the department is asking Alaskans to take down bird feeders and place garbage, livestock feed and pet foods indoors or in bear-resistant containers,” the press release said.

Bird feeders should be removed by mid-April. Storing pet and livestock feed, as well as trash and other bear attractants, in a garage, sturdy shed or in bear-resistant containers is another way to dissuade bears from paying a visit to your home or neighborhood.

Once bears associate homes and people with food, they are likely to return. Removing what attracts them can help reduce the possibility of human-bear encounters, destruction of personal property and the unnecessary destruction of bears. Feeding bears, even when done unintentionally, is illegal. Leaving attractants outside homes, cabins or camps in a way that attracts bears may result in fines.

ADF&G offers the following tips to keep in mind as bears come out of hibernation and become active:

• Store garbage and animal feed inside buildings or in bear-proof containers; keep garbage secured until it is removed; encourage neighbors to do the same.

• Electric fences can keep bears out of gardens, compost and away from buildings, chicken coops and domestic animals. For more information, visit www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livingwithbears.bearfences.

• Clean barbecue grills, especially the grease traps, after each use.

• Feed pets indoors; clean up excess and spilled food between meals.

• Keep freezers locked in a secure building or otherwise out of bears’ reach.

• Plant gardens in the open, away from cover and game trails. Only compost raw vegetable matter and turn the compost frequently.

“Be aware of your surroundings and stay observant so as not to surprise bears or be surprised by them,” said Herreman. “Remember, most bears are as afraid of you as you are of them.”

For more information, visit www.alaskabears.alaska.gov.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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