he Haines Borough is asking residents to report the cost of property damage from bears. The request comes not in an effort to compensate residents for damages, but to seek assistance from the assembly, assistance that interim borough manager Alekka Fullerton said is not coming from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“We are trying to go to our elected officials and show them the extent of the damages that Haines Borough residents have incurred due to bears,” Fullerton said. “There’s a lot of finger pointing between ADFG and the wildlife trooper in terms of whose responsibility it is. We don’t really care, we just need support and we don’t feel like we’ve gotten a response with respect to the wildlife issues here in Haines.”

Assembly member Gabe Thomas echoed the sentiment during Tuesday’s regular meeting and criticized the agency, and particularly state wildlife biologist Carl Koch.

“We have a brown shirt, or Alaska wildlife trooper, that isn’t helping us right now,” Thomas said. “We need to show the state how much our town is having to absorb because of their lack of help. And (Fish and Game), I know Carl’s online right now, their lack of help. I will call them out right now.”

Koch met with his superiors Monday morning regarding Thomas’ comment. Koch said the agency disputes the characterization of being unsupportive. He cited the numerous public service announcements, staff time communicating with the public and traveling to Haines in June in an attempt to kill a sow and two cubs, allowing residents to borrow electric fences, participation in the borough’s bear task force, spending time spent patrolling town looking for problem bears and the agency’s recommendations to secure attractants and for police to cite residents who are leaving out bear attractants.

“Unfortunately, many of our recommendations went unheeded or weren’t put into practice until after bear problems increased,” Koch said. “This is tough for me because I am empathetic that this is a tough year and there’s a lot of folks who were doing everything right. We need to help the folks that are not obeying the law, not securing the things that in many cases are easily secured.”

Koch cited the 46 tickets Sitka police have issued and the 33 tickets Juneau police have issued. Haines Police have cited four people this year.

“This has been a very difficult year because of the lack of natural food, berries and fish and of course the landfill is better secured,” Koch said. “Citations aren’t going to fix everything, but a combination of things we recommended would likely have reduced quite a bit of the concern.”

Bear calls to police have increased by about 600% compared to past years, according to police chief Heath Scott. Bears have destroyed garage doors, sheds, a commercial storage facility and some have even broken into people’s homes. More than a dozen vehicles have been broken into this month with owners reporting thousands of dollars in damage.

Scott is being investigated by the wildlife troopers for shooting a bear outside his home after it had knocked over a garbage can stored outside. Juneau-based Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sergeant Robert Welch told the CVN earlier this month the matter is under investigation as to whether Scott violated state statute in the taking of game in defense of life and property by creating a bear nuisance. Fish and Game biologists have repeatedly urged residents to secure garbage indoors or in a bear-proof container. Scott said he shot the bear in his role as a law enforcement officer addressing a public safety concern because the same bear had damaged nearby residents’ garage doors and other property. He said he won’t store garbage inside his home because some bears have destroyed garage doors in an attempt to gain entry. The Scotts converted their garage to a childcare facility.

So far, 26 bears have been killed outside hunting season this year, the majority under the defense of life or property law. This month, residents shooting at bears raised safety concerns for neighbors. In early October, a Small Tracts resident reported a bullet going through the window of a guest home on their property. Scott believes the bullet ricocheted off the ground after someone attempted to shoot a bear. The shooter was never identified, Scott said.

Residents, law enforcement and members of the bear task force have yet to settle on solutions. Proposed solutions include increased ticketing for leaving out bear attractants, hiring a public safety officer to deal solely with educating the public, patrolling for bear attractants and other bear-related issues. Others want Fish and Game to bait, trap and kill problem bears and others have called for killing bears that venture into town.

Fullerton said she hopes the information gathered from residents will help the borough be more proactive for next year if bear problems persist.

“I think Fish and Game has the power to do things. I have heard about situations where they cage bears or euthanize them,” Fullerton said. “I don’t know what strategies they have but I’m pretty sure they have some tools and I’m pretty sure we want them to share those tools with us. We cannot have bears breaking into occupied homes. That is not okay and we will not tolerate that.”

Koch said the agency will kill problem bears, but setting bear traps won’t necessarily catch the intended bear.

Fullerton is asking residents to email [email protected] with information including dollar amount of damages along with a date and brief description of the damage.