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Friday, August 18 2017 @ 03:59 PM AKDT

They're Still Awake: Be Bear Aware

NatureRecent incidents involving bears in Seward where a dog walker was mauled Thursday and a brown bear sow and two cubs were shot last week by homeowners in a local subdivision are serving as a wake-up call to many in Southcentral Alaska who believe bears have gone to sleep for the winter.

"Bears may be active any month of the year," says Kenai Area Wildlife Biologist Jeff Selinger, "especially if they have access to food."

Ongoing reports of bears drawn to Seward-area subdivisions by unsecured trash, pet foods, and poultry led to citations for some homeowners, but not before bears became habituated to attractants. This created a dangerous situation for people and bears alike.

Seward is not alone. Relatively mild weather in Southcentral Alaska so far this winter, combined with the availability human-supplied foods, has led to human-bear conflicts from Homer to Eagle River and many points in between, including Anchorage.

Minimizing attractants reduces the likelihood of potentially dangerous interactions, loss of personal property, and the unnecessary destruction of bears. To prevent attracting bears, residents should postpone putting out bird feeders until colder weather arrives and bear presence tapers. Storing pet and livestock foods, trash and other bear attractants in a garage, sturdy shed or in bear-resistant containers further reduces unwanted bear visits. Owners of chickens, goats and other small livestock should erect electric fences to discourage raids by bears. For more information on electric fences, contact your area department office or visit the department webpage at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livingwithbears.bearfences.

Brown bears can be particularly defensive of food sources, creating hazards in populated areas. Incidents of bears frequenting neighborhoods or other populated areas, getting into trash, showing aggression, or related concerns should be reported to the nearest Department of Fish and Game office during regular business hours. If the situation involves an immediate public safety concern, contact the Alaska State Troopers or local law enforcement.

"So many situations go unreported, or we hear rumors days later via social media," says Anchorage Area Wildlife Biologist Dave Battle. "We want to know any time brown bears are seen in town or populated areas, and people should let us know whenever they see bears in trash or feeding on human provided food."

Bears can be encountered anywhere. Hikers, runners, dog walkers, hunters and anglers should travel in groups, make plenty of noise, avoid known or likely bear areas after dark, and carry pepper spray or an appropriate firearm for defense. For more information about coexisting with bears, visit www.alaskabears.alaska.gov .

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