Web site becomes 1 man's effort to ease bear trouble

Recent incidents spurred Costello to offer tips, information

Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2000

Photographer Pat Costello is putting his Web site where his mouth is, taking a stand on Juneau's bears.

"We are sitting on a ticking time bomb and governments don't seem to take action until someone is hurt or killed. People need to make their opinions known and make changes," Costello said.

Costello is know for his Juneau photos Web site, which gets hundreds of hits from people interested in Alaska's scenery or in traveling here. Now he's created a second site, www.juneaubears.com, with the aim of saving bears' lives.

Costello's site went from concept to online in a week and is still under construction. "Although bears will be hibernating in about a month, I want to remind people the situation (of bears finding food in town) is trouble," he said.

He is alarmed by a recent incident in which children surrounded a sow and cubs and threw rocks, and an earlier incident in which tourists surrounded a bear downtown. Someone could have been injured, he said.

On the site, Costello features some of his own photos of bears, plus news reports of bear incidents.

A section called "If You See a Bear" gives advice on how to assess bear behavior. "A lot of calls (to police) are not necessary; you don't need to call if a bear is just passing through," he said.

The site also contains links to other bear-related sites from around the nation and a "Guest Book" for comments and solutions. Costello plans to add the city's trash ordinance and would like to include a plan for building a bear-proof container.

"Around the turn of the century, they used to feed bears in Yellowstone near the Old Faithful Inn, with a big grandstand. Feeding bears from your car window was the norm in the '50s. It wasn't until the '70s that someone was killed by a bear in Yellowstone and people got to thinking harder about the issue," he said.

Costello, 39, has lived in Juneau all but four years of his life and has seen bear problems grow. "I think things will continue to get worse unless we deal with it," he said. "We need to take responsibility both on the city level and on the private citizen's level."

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