The “green” bears seen along the Chilkoot River in September are still a mystery to the Department of Fish and Game, wildlife biologist Carl Koch said this week.

“I never heard what happened,” Koch said. Koch was looking for answers when a sow and cub turned up with more than half of their bodies evenly covered in what appeared to be green paint.

Residents speculated on social media how the bears got into the colorful mess, and whether they fell into paint or were intentionally doused. Some locals scoured the area for signs of spilled paint, spray bottles or open dumpsters.

Photographers said the bright paint started to fade a few weeks after the initial sighting, and Koch said he suspects the bears would have shed their coat by now, ridding them of the color. Bear begin losing their winter coats when they come out of hibernation.

“I’d be surprised if there was very much (if any) green on those bears this year. Folks who are based in Haines might have a better sense, but I’ve not gotten any reports since October of “green” bears,” Koch said.

Alaska Chilkoot Bear Foundation President Pam Randles said she suspects the bears found a stash of garbage or discarded items out in the woods, including perhaps a can of spray paint.

“I tried asking all over and so did a lot of other people living (at Lutak),” and they never did either. “My guess is that means they got into something really old and maybe something they found in the woods,” Randles said.

Randles and other Chilkoot River regulars know some bears by distinctive appearance or behavior, but the bears with green coloring weren’t ones known to bear-watchers, she said.

Of a dozen or more bears that feed at Chilkoot, guides and sightseers identify three to five using distinctive characteristics each year, Randles said. But that can also get tricky, she said. “They can change their pelts. You get one blonde bear, and it won’t be blonde the next year. It’s a very ad hoc thing.”