April sunshine is softening snowdrifts, returning geese are cackling from Cordova to Creamer’s Field, and bears are beginning to stir in all points in between. It’s springtime in Alaska, and that means time for Alaskans to be “bear aware.”
“We’ve had reports of bear sightings now in Anchorage, Eagle River, and Chugiak,” said Anchorage Area Wildlife Biologist Dave Battle. “People need to bring in their bird feeders, clean up trash, dog food – anything that might seem tasty to a hungry bear.”
In Southeast, bears are already getting into trash in the Juneau area, according to Department of Fish and Game Information Officer Riley Woodford.
“Garbage cans on Gastineau and Franklin streets have been hit in the past two nights,” said Woodford. “Wait until day-of-pickup to put out trash, and clean up attractants. If bears are rewarded with food now they’ll be a problem all summer.”
Because it’s early in the season, natural foods are scarce in many parts of the state. This can make human-provided attractants particularly inviting to waking bears. Feeding bears, even unintentionally, is illegal and can result in fines. To prevent bear problems, remember these tips:
Garbage- Store trash inside buildings or in bear-proof containers; keep secured until the day of scheduled pickup. Encourage neighbors to do the same.
Electric fences- Properly constructed electric fences can keep bears out of gardens, compost, and away from buildings, chicken coops, and domestic animals. For more information, contact your area department office or visit the webpage at www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livingwithbears.bearfences.
Barbecues- Clean barbecue grills, especially grease traps, after each use.
Pets- Feed pets indoors or clean up excess and spilled food between meals. Store pet food, livestock food, and birdseed indoors or in bear-resistant containers.
Bird Feeders- Take feeders down April through October, store out of bears’ reach and remove spilled seed.
Freezers- Keep freezers locked in a secure building or otherwise out of bears’ reach.
Gardens- Plant gardens in the open, away from cover and game trails. Only compost raw vegetable matter and turn over compost frequently.
In addition to taking preventative measures, PLEASE REPORT incidents of bears frequenting neighborhoods or other populated areas, getting into trash, or showing aggression. Call the nearest Fish and Game office during regular business hours or report online at https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=reportwildlifeencounter.main. If the situation involves an immediate public safety concern, call 911.
“So many situations go unreported, or we hear rumors days later via social media,” said Dave Battle in Anchorage. “We want to know any time brown bears are seen in town or populated areas, and people should let us know whenever they see bears in trash or feeding on human provided food.”
Gov. Bill Walker has officially proclaimed April Bear Awareness Month, recognizing that “our state abounds in bear country,” and that “April is a good time to remind Alaskans about bears, their behavior, and how we can live responsibly and safely in bear country.” The governor’s “Bear Awareness Month” proclamation is available at https://gov.alaska.gov/newsroom/2017/03/bear-awareness-month-3/. To learn more about coexisting with bears, call or visit your local department office or see the webpages at www.alaskabears.alaska.gov.