Over the past couple of weeks, several Kodiak residents have reported seeing a bear in town and have taken their concerns to Facebook. Many have reported seeing a bear in the Spruce Cape area and as far into town as Cut Off Road.
Nathan Svoboda, area wildlife biologist for the Department of Fish and Game, informed the Kodiak Daily Mirror that he was aware of the reports and, while people must remain cautious, there have been no reports that the bear was acting aggressively.
“We’re not in the business of killing every bear that walks into town,” Svoboda said. “Every time a bear comes into town and gets shot, there’s just going to be another bear to replace it. If a bear is being aggressive or being a safety risk, that’s when we’ll take action.”
In cases where bears are acting aggressively, they attempt to haze the animals in a non-lethal way. If a bear remains and still acts aggressively, the last resort is to dispatch the bear. Svoboda, however, said they have been monitoring the bear’s activities and locations and that this particular bear has showed no signs of danger to residents.
“Bears are opportunists,” he said “It’s getting really close to the time that they should be denning up for the winter. So, right now they’re just putting on that extra weight before the den. The bears aren’t going to stick around. They don’t want to be around people any more than people want to be around them.”
Though Svoboda says that the Department of Fish and Game hasn’t received a higher number of reported bear sightings than normal, there is some reason to expect more bears to be around this winter.
“There was a berry-crop failure this year,” said Bill Pyle, the supervisory biologist at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. “We know that in years when that happens, the bears are nutritionally stressed.”
Svoboda’s primary advice is simply to remove any “attractants” that could be tempting the bear into town. He cited improperly storing garbage, pet foods, bird seed or other potential food sources as a hazard, especially during times of year when natural foods are less abundant, like early spring and late fall.
“We need to make it clear to people that when bears are looking for food, and the normal food sources aren’t available, people need to be cautious,” he said. “People need to put their trash away, make sure your chicken or poultry have electric fences. If the bears don’t find any food in town, they’re not going to come into town.”
Svoboda’s other concern is that, while residents regularly take their concerns to Facebook, ADF&G hasn’t received nearly as many reports.
“We don’t have the time or permission [the state of Alaska does not allow employees to use Facebook while at work] to monitor social media sites,” he said. “So, it’s important that people report bear sightings to Fish and Game or the Troopers.”
While Svoboda expressed that social media is “a great tool for the communities to use to keep other residents aware,” he stressed that any bear sightings should be reported to the relevant agencies in order for them to monitor the situation and take action if necessary.