By STEVEN WEBER
Valdez Star 

Marauding bears are causing problems throughout Valdez this summer

Warning: Officials advise keeping outside areas free of bruin bait such as trash

 

Photos courtesy Valdez Police Dept.

Brown bears freely roaming the streets in Robe River Subdivision.

The adage that a fed bear is a dead bear has proven true this year.

As of July 1, there were twenty-seven brown bear related calls to the city's emergency dispatch center. This is a slight increase from the twenty-five received for the same period in 2017 and a substantial increase from 2016, where fourteen brown bear related calls occurred.

On June 23, three bears were killed in the 10 Mile area after being deemed nuisances. And the stream of complaints has continued.

"Recently bears got into a few chicken coops and wreaked havoc killing chickens," Rich Long, the city's animal control officer said in an emailed response to questions regarding bears. "The Valdez Police Department also responded to reports of bears chewing on snowmachine seats and septic pipes and both brown bears and black bears have entered homes, garages, and sheds looking for food."

Despite the increase in brown bear calls, animal control has received less communication about black bears. Fifteen bear related calls have been made for black bears as of July 1 compared to forty-nine in 2017 for the same time period.

The cause of the difference in bear activity this year is yet unknown.

"Bear activity can be impacted by a number of variables, including changes in population, changes in food sources, and how comfortable bears become around humans and other animals," Police Chief Bart Hinkle said Monday in an email response to questions. "Bear activity trends may also be related to how cubs are raised by their mothers and if they are taught to seek food in areas populated by humans."


Bill Johnson for Alaska House

Although brown bear activity has been high in 2018 compared to previous years, Hinkle does not know if the trend will continue.

"It is premature to say whether the bear related calls for the summer of 2018 will be statistically different than previous years," he said.

To decrease troublesome bear activity, it is imperative that the public understands what attracts bears.

"Bears are highly food motivated and seek an easy, reliable food source. Most incident reports this year include bears in and around dumpsters and bears getting into trash placed on the curb, stored outside, or stored on a deck," Long said. "Residents should remember to secure all garbage and freezers either inside a building or in a bear resistant container or shed. Trash should not be placed on the curb until the morning of trash pick-up."


The animal control officer also noted that bears and people share an affinity for salmon.

"Fish is the primary food source for our local bears, so special precautions should be taken when citizens and visitors handle fish," he said. "Please clean your catch at the harbor fish cleaning stations or another safe location instead of your yard, driveway, or the back of your truck. Smoking fish can also attract bears and fish smokers should never be left unattended. Fish waste created at home should be frozen until garbage day or disposed of in a bear resistant dumpster or trash container."

However, fish and trash are not the only bear attractants found around homes in Valdez.

"Uneaten pet food should be brought inside when pets are done eating," Long said. "Bears love dog food more than dogs do! Bears also love bird food, so while bears are in the area, please bring bird feeders inside."

Long also recommends that BBQ grills be thoroughly cleaned with a wire brush after grilling and if possible, stored inside a garage or shed when not in use.

Failure to follow bear prevention regulations can result in disciplinary proceedings.

"Chapter 8.08 of the City of Valdez municipal code requires residents and local businesses to use metal or plastic refuse containers with tight fitting lids on at all times," Hinkle said. "Valdez municipal code 6.08.040 also prohibits both intentionally feeding bears and negligently leaving human food, animal food, or garbage in a manner that attracts bears and other wildlife."

Failure to secure trash or leaving food out that attracts bears might cost you money.

"The fine for violating this law is $25 for the first offense and increases for each subsequent offense," he said.

The Valdez Police Department is now attempting to track reported bear sightings and incident trends using an online "VPD Bear Sightings Map." Chief Hinkle said,

"The map is updated weekly and can be viewed by the public at http://www.easymapmaker.com/map/vpd-bear-map.

"The map includes notes on each bear report and a search feature which allows users to search by year, week, and bear type," Hinkle said.

The city provides free dumpsters in many locations around town for both residents and visitors to use.

Long says to please place trash inside, not next to the dumpster and ensure the dumpster lid is securely fastened. Dumpsters are regularly emptied by the City Public Works Department. However, citizens are encouraged to contact the baler facility if they notice a dumpster is full.

Steven Weber photo

Animal Control Officer Rich Long, who is tasked with dealing with troublesome bears in Valdez.

 

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