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Black bear still awake, patrolling downtown

ADF&G: Cause is likely food-related

Posted: January 10, 2014 - 12:01am
At least one black bear in Juneau has decided not to sleep the winter away. Here, on the deck of Denise Carroll, the bear has left tracks in the snow on Jan. 2.   Denise Carroll | For the Juneau Empire
Denise Carroll | For the Juneau Empire
At least one black bear in Juneau has decided not to sleep the winter away. Here, on the deck of Denise Carroll, the bear has left tracks in the snow on Jan. 2.

It may be time to hibernate, but there’s at least one black bear in town that’s not very sleepy — and most likely, it all comes down to food.

It’s been seen near Cope Park, on Starr Hill, and by residents of Glacier Highway about a mile and a half north, among other places.

Denise Carroll, who lives about a mile from Juneau Douglas High School, said she’s been consistently seeing a bear, or its tracks, since November.

“I put a large new bird feeder with black oiled sunflower seeds just off our back deck in November thinking the bears had denned up,” she said.

The next day, the feeder was gone and the six-foot cast iron pole that had held it was bent.

“Bear tracks were on the deck, some seeds were scattered on the snow on the ground and the rest were in the bear’s belly,” she said. “I found the empty feeder in the trees above the back yard ... Every time I thought it had been cold enough and snow had fallen so it must be safe to put seed out for the juncos and chickadees, the bear tracks show up on the deck.”

Starr Hill resident Mary Feldt saw a black bear on Dec. 27, while walking her puppy. At first, she said, she thought it was a fluffy black dog.

“It was literally just sitting next to the staircase comfortably, as if patrolling the neighborhoods, like a dog might do,” she said. “I jumped a little... the black bear was equally as startled.”

It ran underneath a staircase and stayed there as she and Watson walked home.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Ryan Scott said around New Years ADF&G got a call from the Juneau Police Department letting them know about a bear sighting.

“It sounded like the bear was going from garbage can to garbage can,” Scott said.

He also said he’d heard the bear had been “a little vocal with folks.”

That “vocal” behavior isn’t necessarily threatening, he said; bears frequently “woof” “just to let you know they’re there.”

It’s a reminder, he said, to be vigilant with garbage in spite of the fact most bears are hibernating.

There might be two reasons for the bear not to be hibernation: either it hasn’t eaten enough (isn’t “energetically prepared”) or “on the flip side, if food is available, it doesn’t have a reason to go into hibernation,” Scott said.

Carroll saw fresh bear tracks on her back deck on Jan. 2.

“Presently, there are tracks across the back yard. Still hungry, still looking,” she said.

“When we get into the late fall … it’s not uncommon for us to hear a concern, and then it’s gone the next day,” Scott said. “We’re obviously interested and will definitely be keeping an eye on it.”

Contact Outdoors reporter Mary Catharine Martin at maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.

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