Progress on bears being made, officials say
Despite the destruction of up to seven bears this year, residents involved in the issue this week said they believe progress is being made toward reducing problems associated with attracting bears.
They also said more can be done.
Tim McDonough is a member of the Haines-based Chilkoot Bear Foundation and chair of the local Fish and Game Advisory Committee to the state boards of fish and wildlife conservation.
McDonough said a large number of juveniles on their own for the first time and a sow that was entering homes make this year exceptional.
“In general, I think public perception has been heightened. I can’t quantify that. But there’s been a lot of publicity and I think people take better care of their garbage. Bears do bad things, but when you think of how many bears were booted (by sows) this year, I think they’re holding it together,” McDonough.
“I think we’re on a good path, but like anything, it takes time to change,” he said.
Dan Egolf, who guides tours along Chilkoot River, also is a member of the foundation. The large number of roaming bears this year has depleted the number of electric fences and “critter-gitter” deterrents the foundation has available for loan, but the group will be getting more, he said.
Egolf said he’d like to see fewer instances of bears returning to the same house, a sign that they’re likely being rewarded.
“Bears have a long memory. They’ll come around even next year if they get food. But they also remember getting sprayed or getting shot with rubber slugs. For homeowners, it’s a lot easier to deter a bear than to shoot it. If you shoot (and kill) it, you’ve got to skin it out and turn in the skull. It’s a half day’s work.”
Borough police chief Gary Lowe said he believes the borough’s two-year-old bear ordinance is working. No one’s been cited under the ordinance, he said, but warnings have been issued. “I don’t think we had a case this year where a person, in violation of the bear ordinance, created a bear attractant.”
“Before the ordinance, bears were getting into dumpsters. Now they’re breaking into sheds and porches and freezers. I think they’re searching for the food they used to get from dumpsters,” Lowe said.
This year’s problem bears may have become habituated to human sources of food before passage of the bear ordinance, he said. Bear numbers in town will probably be cyclical, depending on their population, Lowe said.