Relocated bears may be equipped with tracking collars

Two problem bears are avoiding traps

Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2003

Some problem bears in the Juneau area could provide an education for wildlife officials.

Neil Barten, area wildlife biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game, said his agency plans to put collars on a couple of local bears to broadcast their movements after they are moved away from town.

Barten said the GPS collars would show where the bears are going, where they sleep and where they spend most of their time.

"It's a lot of good information," he said.

Barten said he has been trying to trap two bears that have become a nuisance. One is in the Switzer Village Mobile Home Park. The other has been a problem at the Glacier View Trailer Park.

By Friday, neither trap, baited with the sort of things bears pick out of people's garbage, had been sprung, he said. The bears could be too smart, perhaps having experienced traps before, or there could be more trash that is easier to get to, he added.

It appears that just one bear is getting into trash in the Switzer area because it has been described with a consistent size and shape and with a distinctive brown muzzle. The Glacier View bear has been described as having an ear tag, which means it has been trapped before and released back into the wild.

Often, the bears the agency captures will be relocated away from the neighborhoods where they were causing problems, Barten said. With GPS collars, the agency can watch where the bears go from there. GPS - short for global positioning system - uses orbiting satellites to accurately pinpoint location.

"They often come back," Barten said of relocated bears.

The tagged bears that come back after being moved have to be killed, he said, describing it as "very unfortunate." He said it is a public safety concern, and the department doesn't have the time and resources to keep relocating the same bears that have developed a taste for people's garbage.

Garbage - with remnants of things like ketchup, chicken skins, old pork chops and other fatty foods - offers flavors that a bear can't find by foraging for berries and fish, Barten said. And garbage can be easier.

This year, only one bear has had to be killed in Juneau for creating a nuisance. A Juneau police officer killed a glacier bear July 16 at Thunder Mountain Trailer Park, where it had been in the trash and even tore into a locked storage shed.

The real problem is not with the bears, Barten said.

"Trash is the ultimate concern," he said. "It's most important that people store their trash properly."

Attracting bears can attract other problems. In recent weeks, Juneau police have received a few reports of kids chasing bears that come into their neighborhood.

"In spite of our best efforts, kids tend to do that," Barten said.

There are programs in the schools that teach children to leave bears alone, and when Barten talks to parents about bear sightings - maybe five or six times a day - he tells them it is up to them to teach their kids to leave bears alone, he added.

Tony Carroll can be reached at tcarroll@juneauempire.com.



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