KODIAK — Kodiak’s six-week spring bear hunting season opens Sunday, but don’t expect hunters to be held back by near-record snowfall.

Many local guides wait until at least mid-April before heading into the field with clients, and though they might still be stomping through drifts, a few flakes aren’t going to stop men and women who have waited years and spent thousands of dollars to get to Kodiak.

“It’s not like people wait until the last minute until they come hunting,” said Dick Rohrer, who has guided bear hunters on Kodiak for 30 years. “The bears may be a little bit slower if it stays cold and the snow doesn’t melt down enough, but you’re just going to have to be patient.”

Larry Van Daele, acting supervisor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Kodiak, said the key factor for many bears is likely to be the depth of frozen ground. If bears don’t feel warmth in their dens, they’re less likely to come out. This winter, the frost line on Kodiak reached an unusual six feet down.

He cautioned that some bears, including one on the east side of Kodiak city, have remained active all winter, and more are likely to emerge from their dens as the ground thaws.

Homeowners are advised to take precautions, including proper storage of food and garbage.

Pilots have reported a notable number of bear tracks in the northern portions of Afognak Island and scattered tracks on the west side of Kodiak Island.

Rohrer said local hunters may go into the field starting the first day of the season — they can always return if they don’t get a bear — but he has learned to schedule clients later, since they won’t get a second opportunity.

“Once the hunt begins, every day you wait, there’s a better chance,” he said.

Retailers and air taxi services echoed Rohrer’s thoughts. If the weather continues to warm on schedule, winter’s deep chill should not have major effects on bear hunting.

At Sea Hawk Air, Jo Murphy said winter means maintenance season, and the winter has not been too bad for the single-plane operation where she works.

“There’s usually not too much in the first two weeks of the (bear) season, anyway,” she said.

At Mack’s Sport Shop, manager Jesse Glamann said he expects snowshoes and sleds to be the best sellers, but he always stocks equipment for guides and visitors who may need something last-minute before they head into the field.

On a camping trip several weeks ago, Glamann encountered deep drifts. He said warmer weather will help conditions at lower elevations, but if hunters need to go into the snow, they should be prepared for some work.

“The snow is so soft that you’re basically post-holing the whole way,” he said. “You’ll get a workout. That’s about all it’s good for.”

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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