Wolf Song of Alaska News

Bears Out and About

Longmere Lake, moose center have hungry visitors

Joseph Robertia / Peninsula Clarion / May 7, 2007

Hungry bruins are brewing up activity in several spots around the Kenai Peninsula, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is hoping the public will help prevent problems.

"The bears are active and hungry, and there's not moose calves on the ground or fish in the river yet, so while people should be minimizing attractants around their yard year-round, it's especially important right now," said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The Longmere Lake area, in particular, is off to a bad start with bears, according to Selinger. He is asking everyone in the vicinity to be careful.

"Anybody that lives within a five mile radius of Longmere Lake should be taking extra precautions," he said.

Selinger said he, along with Alaska State Troopers, responded to two consecutive nights of calls last Wednesday and Thursday after a brown bear sow with cubs were reported as active in the area.

"She got into garbage that had been left out the first night and then was back in the same location the next night sniffing around a barbecue grill," he said.

Selinger said it's no surprise a bear would linger around or return to an area with these types of attractants.

"The shame of it is that there are simple things that can be done so that bears aren't attracted, or just pass on through," he said.

The main way is to minimize attracts, such as having garbage in bear-proof containers and making frequent trips to the dump to haul it off. Chest freezers full of fish, moose and other food should be secured with locking latches, he said.

In summer, native birds should be provided only with a bird bath and not seed or suet. People should make sure livestock - such as pigs, goats, chickens and rabbits - are protected with electric fencing and that livestock and pet feed is stored in a secure place, he said.

Selinger said communities should police themselves by neighbors encouraging each other to minimize attractants and reporting people who are leaving out attractants that pose a threat to themselves and others. Most people are good about preventing these kinds of bear problems in their community, but it only takes one to it for everyone, according to Selinger.

"For this to be successful, it takes everyone in a community working together and putting peer pressure on those who aren't," he said.

The Longmere Lake area isn't the only location visited by a hungry bear last week.

"We did have a bear get in and get a research animal at the (Kenai) Moose Research Center," Selinger said of the remote Fish and Game facility at the end of Swan Lake Road in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Tom Lohuis, director of the facility, said it is believed the incident occurred sometime between Monday and Wednesday last week.

"We're not 100 percent certain it was a bear kill, though," he said.

That there were tracks around the moose's carcass from brown and black bears and it was visually obvious the bears had fed on the carcass, but a bear may not have brought the animal down while it was in peak condition, Lohuis said.

"(The moose) had been worked up the week before and wasn't responding well to the drugs, so she might have been compromised and was easy pickings for a bear, or she may have died and they found her and fed on the carcass," he said.

It is unusual for a bear or bears to feed on a moose within the facility, but Lohuis said bears' presence is not out of the ordinary.

"Brown bears come through twice a year, in spring and fall, and we have a resident population of black bears, but they usually don't get in the way. Ninety-nine percent of the time the bears just come and go," he said.

Lohuis said the fencing around the 4-square-mile facility is 35 years old, and while strides are being made to repair breaches, this work is ongoing.

Lohuis said the moose carcasses was removed and the area cleaned up for the safety of the other research animals and their human caretakers. He added that the bear was not at fault and will not be persecuted.

"We have no plans to track it down or kill it or anything like that," he said.

For more information on bears, bear safety and ways to minimize attracting them, call Fish and Game at 262-9368.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.



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