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Wildlife roundup: Bears go bad when human food is involved

Posted: August 16, 2013 - 12:00am

Welcome to the Juneau area Wildlife Roundup for the week of Aug. 12, 2013.

Calls concerning black bear activity remained about the same over the last week. The majority of calls came from:

• Downtown

• North Douglas Highway

• Valley neighborhoods adjacent to Thunder Mountain

• Valley neighborhoods adjacent to the valley movie theater

The number of black bears captured and released in a new location this year remains at two. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has euthanized one black bear so far this year.

Black bears continue to be active throughout Juneau. Many of the concerns can be addressed through the proper storage of garbage, and the removal of attractants such as fish scraps and waste, bird feeders and pet food. The department continues to receive calls concerning birdseed and unsecured trash; by eliminating attractants, homeowners can largely eliminate unwanted bear encounters.

A recent bear encounter was reported in a Mendenhall Valley neighborhood where a bear made contact with a person. This type of behavior is very rare; more often than not bears will leave an area when humans are present. While the circumstances of this incident are not clear, it is likely the bear had become food-conditioned to human food and habituated — comfortable around humans — in its pursuit of food. Animals that come to rely on, or at least focus mainly on human food, are the primary cause of bear-related calls the department receives. Juneau’s residents have the opportunity, by simply ensuring food attractants are not available, to reduce the potential for negative bear encounters, possible human injury and the destruction of bears because of food-conditioning. By in large, Juneau residents do a good job and the effort is appreciated but there is always room for improvement. Bears will be in the Juneau area for a few more months; please keep up the good work!

The Alaska Wildlife Troopers continue to investigate two bear killings in the Juneau area. A bear was found dead in the Lena Point area and another along Gastineau Channel south of downtown. If anyone has information concerning either of the two bears please contact the Alaska Wildlife Troopers at 465-4000, or the ADF&G at 465-4265. Callers may remain anonymous by calling the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Safeguard hotline at 1-800-478-3377 and may be eligible for a reward.

Fishing at both the Fish Creek pond and Sweetheart Creek appears to be winding down but fishers who are interested in late season trips need to keep in mind that bears are still being seen in both areas. People should exercise caution when fishing and do everything possible to prevent bears from getting the catch, including leaving the area with their fish, if necessary. Fishers should make noise and travel in groups when going to and from fishing sites, and be vigilant while fishing. Keep your catch close at hand so bears do not steal the fish, and be sure to discard carcasses and other fish waste in deep or fast moving water.

• Ryan Scott is a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The intent of this column is to provide Juneau residents updates on wildlife activity in the Juneau area, and general interest wildlife information. For additional information and questions, please contact the Douglas Area wildlife Office at 465-4265.

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