Alaska Editorial: Living in bear country

This editorial first appeared in the Peninsula Clarion:

With a number of recent bear sightings around town, now is a good time for a reminder that, even inside of city limits, we live in bear country.

And with that comes a reminder that in bear country, whether it’s the backcountry or back yard, certain safety precautions are necessary. There have been nine bears killed in defense of life and property this year, and Kenai police report using rubber bullets to haze a bear away from a neighborhood recently.

First and foremost, if you’re out and about for a walk or a jog, even in your neighborhood, be aware of your surroundings. Make a little noise so that a bear in the vicinity knows you’re coming. And if you spot a bear on the golf course, as has happened recently, it’s probably best to let it play through.

Around your house, minimize bear attractants — anything a hungry bruin could construe as food. Alaska Department of Fish and Game recommends that residents keep trash in bear-resistant containers or inside. Animal feed should be stored in a secure area. Bird feeders should be put away for the summer. Chest freezers stored outdoors should be locked or secured with ratchet straps.

Of particular concern to residents in the coming month should be proper disposal of fish carcasses. Numerous bear issues in recent years have started with fish carcasses carelessly dumped in or near a neighborhood.

Bears are smart animals, and they’re looking for the easiest meal they can find to fatten up for another winter. Make sure easy food sources aren’t available, and most of the time, they will be just passing through, not sticking around to cause trouble.

Living with bears — and all the other animals that thrive on the Kenai Peninsula — is part of what makes life here such an adventure. Let’s do our part to make sure it stays that way.

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