Using a shotgun loaded with yellow bean bags, a state wildlife biologist fired two shots at a pair of young grizzly bears on Friday in an attempt to "haze" them out of a residential area off Farmer's Loop that they have been roaming for almost a week.
"I don't know if I hit them," reported Don Young, area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks.
Either way, Young is hoping the bears get the message that it's time to move on and do what bears should do--live in the wilds of Alaska instead of its second largest city.
"So far they've been kind of indifferent to people," said Young. "Maybe with this they'll get the message a little bit more."
Young and fellow biologist Dick Shideler tracked the bears down Friday at around noon after they had been reported in the area of Fiedler Road behind the Dog Mushers Hall.
"They were kind of playing around on the trail," said Young.
Shideler, a bear expert, was accompanied by one of his two Karelian bear dogs, Riley, who immediately began barking at the bears while Shideler and Young yelled at them. Young fired two shots with bean bags at the bears and one with a slug--not aimed at the bears--to scare them.
"They split as soon as we yelled at them," said Shideler, who has used Riley to haze bears on the North Slope. "They were very weary.
"The dog was barking at them the whole time," he said. "There was a lot of noise and activity. Hopefully they'll figure out barking dogs are not a good thing."
The two bears, thought to be 3-year-old siblings, were first reported in the area on Monday morning at the North Star Golf Course.
Later that evening, they treated passing motorists on Farmers Loop to a roadside show by rampaging around in the open on the north side of the road between McGrath Road and the Steese Highway for the better part of three hours.
The bears disappeared until Wednesday night, when they were reported farther west on the south side of the road near Walker Way and Candemar Drive. They weren't heard from again until they were spotted Friday morning in the vicinity of Fiedler Road behind the Dog Musher's Hall.
The presence of the grizzlies evidently spooked a horse on Foxtail Drive but the bears didn't bother the animal, Young said.
The bears haven't caused any trouble or confronted any people, but the longer they linger the more chance there is they will get into garbage, harass livestock or run into humans, Young said.
"So far there's no reports of them hanging around in one area or getting into anything," said Young. "They're just kind of meandering through, if we're lucky maybe they'll just move through."
This is the time of year bears are wandering around looking for things to eat.
There have been reports of at least two black bears spotted in the Chena Lakes Recreation Area in North Pole, according to park director Chris Jenkins with the Fairbanks North Star Borough. A few reports came in about a lone black bear on the south side of the Chena River near the river park, and Jenkins also heard a second-hand report of a black bear sow and cub between the river park and lake park, though park staff haven't seen hide nor hair of the bears.
Residents in the Farmers Loop area, as well as all of Fairbanks, should take measures to ensure bears can't get into garbage or pet food, said Young.
Keeping garbage stored outside your home, even if it's in the back of a pickup truck, is an invitation to roaming bears, he said.
"Keep your garbage secured until you're ready to take it to the Dumpster," said Young.
Anyone who sees a bear, especially the two grizzlies near Farmers Loop, are asked to call the Department of Fish and Game at 459-7206 during business hours or Young on his cell phone at 347-4192 after hours.
News-Miner staff writer Tim Mowry can be reached at 459-7587 or firstname.lastname@example.org