Troublesome bear banned from Juneau

Alaska Department of Fish and Game darts and relocates bear after numerous complaints

Posted: Thursday, June 08, 2006

A bad-news bear is banished from Juneau after being captured near Basin Road Wednesday afternoon.

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An Alaska Department of Fish and Game crew darted and captured the bear after receiving calls for the last couple of weeks about its activity in the hills above downtown Juneau. The department believes one bear likely was responsible for breaking into garbage cans, cars and at least one home, Juneau-area wildlife biologist Neil Barten said.

"I don't know if it's the same animal or not, but we'll wait a few days and see if we get any more reports of a bear that's kind of like a cat burglar," he said.

Fish and Game darted the animal after receiving a call from police about a bear in the general vicinity of the recent reports. Biologists relocated the troublesome 145-pound female to its new home south of the Taku River.

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"She was still pretty groggy when we dropped her off, but I think she'll be fine," Juneau-area assistant wildlife biologist Ryan Scott said.

Barten said biologists are not certain the relocated bear is the one that has caused the recent ruckus, but he believes it likely is the one.

Barten said the department received a call last week about a bear that had crawled through a window in a home in the highlands and stole a jar of wasabi peas and a can of peanuts.

"It didn't wreck anything but it left tell-tale signs of tracks on the dining room table," he said.

Jonathon Mollick, park maintenance supervisor for Juneau's Department of Parks and Recreation, said staff members witnessed a black bear open two styles of "bear-proof" garbage cans at Cope Park last week. He said parks and rec employees have had suspicions, but have never witnessed such an act or heard reports from the public.

"It was definitely self-educated in being able to open two different styles," he said. "We're certain that the containers were latched."

Mollick said the bear was using its snout to open one style of garbage can and what we would consider a hind leg to open the other style.

Although there are lots of bears in the area, Barten said biologists believe the incidents all pointed to one bear, which he hopes is the one relocated Wednesday. He said it could be the bear that was recently spotted in front of the Governor's Mansion.

Nonna Shtipelman was walking to a friend's house on Sunday afternoon when she stumbled across what she thought was a large dog.

"I was walking up the stairs from the Governor's Mansion up to Basin Road and I stopped on a landing and saw a couple of black furry ears," she said.

Although not expecting to see a bear in the neighborhood that day, Shtipelman said she was not totally surprised. She said downtown is located in the middle of prime bear country.

"As novel as it is to see a bear walk by the Governor's Mansion, it's pretty predictable," Shtipelman said.

She said humans have a responsibility to do the extra work it takes to live in harmony with their neighbors.

"It's easy to think that since we live in downtown Juneau that we run the show, but there are still plenty of critters that share the space with us," she said.

Scott said this is the time of year when Juneau residents should be sure to be bear-aware.

"The two things I would remind people of, is to secure your garbage and put away your bird feeders - and enjoy the bears," he said.

Scott said it is unusual to merely relocate a bear that is believed to have such a lengthy rap sheet, but the department did so because it is a young female bear and was not caught with her hands in the honey jar.

"It is kind of an anomaly that we move bears like this. ... we typically destroy them," Scott said.

The bear should get a fresh start in an area without garbage to scavenge or humans with which to interact, he said. He doesn't think the bear will return and cause any more trouble in its old stomping grounds.

"I'd say it's improbable," he said. "It certainly can, don't get me wrong, but it's not that likely."



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