KODIAK — While bears are an intrinsic part of life in Kodiak, the emerald isle is currently seeing an unusually heightened level of bear activity in residential areas, due to the low number of fish in the rivers.
According to Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Todd Mountain, AWT have been receiving calls from locals throughout the past week.
“Between Monashka and the Flats, there’s at least a dozen bears that have been reported, with obviously numerous sightings of the same bears,” he said. “They’re definitely on the search for food.”
Lt. Francis de la Fuente said that the Kodiak Police Department, too, has had reports of several bears within city limits, saying that bear sightings had been reported in the Aleutian Homes area, near Kodiak College and on Near Island. While neither KPD or AWT have received any reports of bears causing trouble, both agencies are paying close attention to bears that have been seen in close proximity to people’s homes.
While bears are a common sight for locals, the number of bears that have been spotted in town over the past week is unusual for this point in the year.
“This is early for us,” said de la Fuente.
According to Mountain, four or five bears have been spotted around the Pillar Creek area. These bears are “pretty much doing normal bear things,” he said.
“The rain we had have at least pulled some silvers into the creeks,” said Mountain. “So the bears can get back to fishing.”
Mountain said that a sow and a three-year old cub have been wandering around Ft. Abercrombie State Historic Park. He added that it appears that the younger bear is the one that has been repeatedly reported on Otmeloi Way.
“As we heard back out towards the airport, there’s been one on Puffin, off Spruce Cape,” said Mountain. “I know he was there for sure Wednesday morning and then just kind of moved his way slowly past Spruce Cape – down near the water treatment plant is the last report I’ve had of him.”
There are also a number of bears by the Buskin River, which Mountain said are prompting AWT to closely monitor activity around the dumpsters at the Comfort Inn Hotel.
“People are seeing more and more of them throughout Bells Flats,” added Mountain.
According to John Crye, area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the cause of the heightened activity is likely due to the relative lack of fish in the rivers.
“There’s definitely a lot of bears and it’s probably fish-run related,” he said. “This is probably the most bears we’ve had running around that I’ve seen.”
Various locals have taken to social media to warn others about bears spotted in their neighborhoods.
In a letter recently sent to the Kodiak Daily Mirror’s editor, one local described a close-call with a bear that he experienced on Thursday, Oct 4. John Stella wrote that he was at the near island fish cleaning table at 9 p.m. that evening, when a KPD car pulled up behind him. Little did he know that a bear had been silently approaching him from behind, prompting KPD Officer Jeffrey Holden to pull up in between the unsuspecting Stella and the bear.
According to Stella, Holden got out of the car and began “firing pepper rounds” at the bear, which ran off.
In the letter, Stella expresses gratitude to KPD and Holden in particular.
“While I was armed with a 44 magnum handgun, I would never have been able to draw it in time,” wrote Stella.
Stella’s letter can be found in the opinion section of today’s newspaper.
With regards to the current level of bear activity, Crye, de la Fuente and Mountain all had the same advice for locals: secure your garbage and don’t leave anything outside of your house that might attract a bear.
“They’re one place one day and another place another day,” said Crye, adding that locals should, for example, secure their compost piles and smoke houses, and be careful if they’re hanging deer.
Mountain concurred on all of this, saying, “Always a reminder for people is: keep everything clean around the house and run your trash to a dumpster.”
“The reason for them being in town is: garbage will keep them here. If they can find a food source, they’ll stay with it,” he added. “So far, these bears have been good. I’m hopeful that the fish hang out for a bit. With the berries gone and all that, fish is all they have left.”