Just two days after a problem bear was shot near the dumpster on Selief Lane, another problem bear was shot in the same location Tuesday evening.
The male bear weighed just shy of 1,200 pounds and was over 10 feet tall, according to Area Wildlife Biologist Nate Svoboda, who works for the Department of Fish and Game. Svoboda said they were unable to determine the age of the bear, but estimate it to be about 15 years old.
“It was one of the biggest bears we’ve ever seen on the road system,” he said.
It was the second of two bears identified by law enforcement three weeks ago as “problem bears” that should be killed because they have become habituated to human food and were therefore a danger to public safety, Svoboda said.
The Department of Fish and Game received a report that the problem bear was spotted in a resident’s yard on Tuesday afternoon. Department staff were not able to travel to the scene, and requested Alaska Wildlife Troopers investigate the incident.
Troopers agreed to remain near the location where the bear was spotted until the bear returned. However, they later had to leave for another call. At that time, Kodiak Police Department officers arrived at the scene. Police officers shot the bear at the Selief dumpster around 8 p.m.
After the bear was killed, R.C. Enterprises were called to the scene to transport the bear to the Department of Fish and Game facility. Law enforcement officers were unable to transport it without assistance due to its size and weight.
A necropsy performed on Wednesday revealed the stomach of the bear was filled with trash, including plastic, Svoboda said, indicating that the bear had consumed large amounts of human garbage before it was shot.
Svoboda said the dumpster was left open on Tuesday, which likely drew the bear to the site. The dumpster was left open also on Sunday, when the first bear was shot. After the bear was shot on Sunday, Svoboda appealed to the public to refrain from leaving dumpsters unlatched and leaving trash outside of dumpsters, noting that problem bears will persist as long as trash regulations are not upheld.
Because of the bear’s unusual size, the hide may be kept by the department for education purposes. Otherwise, it will be sold at the Fur Rondy, an annual auction where the department sells confiscated antlers and animal hides.
Svoboda said that Tuesday evening, another bear on Sharatin Road was reported to the Department of Fish and Game. The bear will be monitored by the department, but they hope it is just a bear passing through town, and that it will not become a persistent problem.
Nick Szabo, who lives next to the Selief dumpster, heard the shots that were fired both on Sunday and Tuesday evenings.
“I know quite a bit about those bears because they’ve been hanging out there for quite a while,” he said, adding that he often saw the bears while working in his driveway. “The bears aren’t aggressive, but if they are there at night and someone tries to dump their garbage, the bears may react in an unfriendly manner, and that would be unfortunate.”
Szabo said that the bears are drawn to the dumpster in the winter, when there are no wild food sources available.
“The only reason they’re here is because they’re getting access to human food,” he said, noting that the dumpsters have bear-resistant latches on them but that some residents do not bother to close the latch.
“I wish it hadn’t happened, but once they get conditioned to the food, you almost have no choice,” Szabo said. “I hate to see an animal destroyed when it could have been avoided by people being more careful and thoughtful about what they’re doing.”
Szabo, who is the chair of the Kodiak Island Borough Solid Waste Advisory Board, said the new solid waste removal contract, which takes effect this summer, will help curb the problem of bears becoming habituated to human food. As part of the new contract, roll carts will be removed entirely from bear-prone streets, including Selief Lane, Sharatin Road and Hillside Drive. Other Kodiak City streets will be quipped with bear-resistant roll carts.
“The roll carts we have now are a complete disaster. There’s no way to latch the lids,” Szabo said, adding that the new roll carts will “be a giant step forward as far as managing waste in the neighborhood.”
Szabo said that the new contract will remove roll carts from areas that are near to the woods because bears tend to drag trash bags into the woods and spread garbage.
“If you walk back in the woods, it looks like a landfill back in there,” he said, referring to the wooded area adjacent to Selief Lane.
However, dumpsters will continue to attract bears if people don’t close the doors, Szabo said.
“We may have to set up dumpster sites that are farther away from what people are used to,” he said, noting that the issue will be a topic of discussion at the next Solid Waste Advisory Board meeting, scheduled for Feb. 3. The meeting is open to the public.
In addition, Szabo said that once the borough begins enforcing its code by issuing fines to residents for improper waste disposal, he hopes it will deter community members from leaving dumpsters unlatched.
“Once you find a couple people $50, they will start to think twice about this,” he said. “I am hoping the enforcement will create better human behavior.”