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First bear sighting in Juneau reminds all to go into spring safely

Posted: March 29, 2011 - 8:55pm  |  Updated: March 30, 2011 - 10:44am

It’s bear season, so be prepared.

KINY has reported a black bear spotted around Switzer Village. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Ryan Scott said this is the first sighting he’s heard about, and it’s right on time.

The first bear sightings are generally reported toward the end of March or beginning of April, although it hasn’t been uncommon the first reports to come in as early as mid-March.

“Certainly by May 1, the majority of bears will be out,” said Scott, noting it’s likely other bears have already emerged from hibernation.

“It’s time to get our brains back into bear season mode,” he said. “We want people to enjoy the animals but hopefully not have any issues.”

He said most Juneauites are pretty used to living and working in bear country, but safety is always important to keep fresh in the mind as the weather warms up.

Basic tips include pay attention to one’s surroundings. If in bear country, it’s dangerous to surprise bears so make noise when moving and travel in groups.

“On the flip side, Juneau is a great place to view them, so give them their boundaries,” he advises.

“This is the perfect time to remind people that many bears come into town and are attracted to food so we need to be really careful with garbage,” he added. Bear are very attracted to food and smells so he noted that people should not leave trash out for pickup the night before but to take it out after 4 a.m. on pickup days. Trash should be kept in bear-proof enclosures or secured containers, never leaving any sitting outside.

Scott said some people also drive their own trash out to the landfill or freeze waste to keep the smell down until pickup day.

He said that as we go into fishing season, do not toss fish waste around but throw it out properly and securely.

Scott said there were 88 bear-related calls last year, which is about average.

People with bear questions or sightings are encouraged to call the department at 465-4265.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.

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