ANCHORAGE - A state lawmaker from Anchorage has proposed a bill that would force the Department of Fish and Game to make protecting people its top priority in the city.
Rep. Charisse Millett held a public meeting on the proposal Saturday at Goldenview Middle School where people told stories of encountering bears and moose.
The Anchorage Daily News reports the Fish and Game Department says the bill is unnecessary because police already shoot bears that threaten people, while poor trash disposal habits are to blame for attracting animals in the first place.
In 2008, two women were attacked by bears on the Rover's Run trail in Bicentennial Park. That summer, when Millett was campaigning door-to-door, bears were a top complaint, she said.
"I live right by McDonald's ... I had a sow and three cubs wander into our cul-de-sac," Millett said.
Fish and Game estimates there are roughly 200 to 300 black bears and 60 brown bears in the general Anchorage area.
Most of the hundreds of sightings reported each year are of bears attracted by garbage, said Jennifer Yuhas, legislative liaison for the Department of Fish and Game.
Millett's bill would change the Department of Fish and Game's mission statement to say "the taking of game resources to ensure public safety has a priority over other management purposes" in Alaska cities of more than 100,000 people. It says police would be authorized to "take" game in order to protect people.
Millett's mother grew up in Nome. There, she said, "If a bear comes into town too many times, they shoot it. Hence, no bear problem."
Others at the hearing worried Millett's proposal would lead to a never-ending war on bears and moose.
"Even if you kill all the bears and moose in Anchorage, you're not going to get rid of them," said Bill Sherwonit.