City panel: Time to cull bears

Committee considers shooting or relocating bears to solve problem

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2001

The city's urban bear committee suggested Thursday that some of Juneau's bears be killed or relocated, but emphasized that more public education, enforcement and outreach are needed to resolve garbage problems.

Bear activity should peak in the next couple of months as the animals prepare to den up for the winter, and a poor berry crop isn't helping matters, according to area wildlife management biologist Neil Barten of the state Department of Fish and Game. Barten said he hates to kill bears, but some veterans need to go.

"Almost certainly we're going to start killing bears. We'll move females and young bears. It will be the adult males we'll start killing," he said.

Specifically, Barten said bears at Lawson Creek, Riverside Drive and Montana Creek could be moved or killed. A new city ordinance designed to crack down on garbage has helped, but he said people need to be talked to, warned and ticketed for garbage violations.

"Bears move to the weakest spot in the chain. We finally have some tight spots in the chain, so we're making headway there," he said.

Bear committee member and photographer Pat Costello has pointed to problems at South Franklin Street, Lawson Creek and Lemon Creek, but he said bears are active everywhere. People are shooting at the animals, he said.

"We've got a couple of months to try to mitigate things, deal with nasty situations and hope no one gets hurt," he said. "People are living out these little dramas every day in every neighborhood. They're trying to do the right thing."

The Juneau Police Department is getting an average of 70 bear calls a week, according to police reports. Meanwhile, frustration about bears and garbage enforcement is growing.

Mark Wharton, who lives at the Churchill Trailer Park in Lemon Creek, said he wasn't surprised someone killed a bear with a bow and arrow Wednesday in his neighborhood. He didn't shoot the animal and is sorry it was killed the way it was.

"Where are the tickets? Everybody's frustrated out here," he said. "That bear had been here for five weeks. You can't even step out the door without worrying about running into one."

Glen Kramer, who lives on Threadneedle Street, said he was unfairly given a ticket this week for improper garbage storage and didn't receive a warning first. He said the city needs to work with people more.

"The city hasn't gone further in bringing everyone in touch with it. Not everyone reads the paper or watches the news," he said.

Riverside Drive resident Elise Pringle called police when a bear walked on the Mendenhall River Community School playground Thursday afternoon. She doesn't believe in shooting bears, but said something needs to be done.

"These bears need to be transported out, at least the ones we know are resident bears," she said. "If we allow bears to run free in the area, it's more dangerous because people are going to have to protect themselves. They need to be scared off to their natural environment."

What's needed, according to the bear committee, are a detailed community action plan, more metal Dumpster lids, a multimedia public affairs campaign, a bear hotline, increased enforcement, culling problem bears, and tours of hot spots with city officials.

Additionally, the city should explore mandatory garbage service, encourage local production of bear-proof containers, and provide more support to staff members who enforce garbage laws, the committee recommended.

The bear committee was disbanded earlier this summer after the city implemented a new garbage ordinance. Chairman Mark Farmer said it was good to have the panel back together.

"It's an incomplete act. It's like a really long opera at this point and there's no hope in sight for the fat lady singing. We're in the thick of it right now," he said.

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Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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