Bears kills in Anchorage tie record in 2005

Posted: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

ANCHORAGE - A record-tying number of bears were killed this year in Anchorage.

Most of the bear deaths were the result of people leaving out trash and other edibles, according to wildlife biologists.

The high number of nuisance bear deaths occurred despite another aggressive campaign by state biologists and wildlife groups and citations handed to chronic offenders for leaving out trash.

Two black bears were struck by vehicles, bringing to 21 the total number of bears killed in Anchorage. Also included in that count were 15 black bears shot or captured near town plus two brown bear sows that were shot after they charged hunters in Chugach State Park. Two cubs also died.

The deaths are a tie with the 21 bears killed in 2000.

The city's boundaries include the half-million-acre Chugach State Park. This wilderness area overlaps suburban areas and city parks, bringing bears into residential areas.

Most of this season's bear deaths can be traced to the same problem that has bedeviled these neighborhoods for years: People keep leaving out stuff that bears like to eat.

"I think some people aren't getting it," said assistant area biologist Jessy Coltrane, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

At least 250 black bears are thought to live between the Knik River and Turnagain Arm, with one-third of them foraging in or near populated areas. Sixty brown bears overlap the area, with at least a dozen thought to live close to people.

Most of these animals never get into trouble. But with the spread of housing, more black bears have learned to seek food near people.

During the past 11 seasons, 129 black bears have been shot by residents or hit by vehicles. In that same period, 29 brown bears have died for the same reasons, 14 in the past three years.

The totals don't include a dozen black bears killed yearly in legal hunts in remote areas of the municipality.

"This was the worst year ever for bears in Anchorage, by almost any measure," said biologist Rick Sinnott, who manages state-approved hunts and wildlife conflicts within Anchorage for the state Department of Fish and Game.



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