City residents have turned to Facebook a lot over the last month to report bear sightings.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game area biologist Nate Svoboda says sometimes citizen reports give the impression of a busy bear season. But actually, he says, numbers are down compared to previous years.
There was a recent sighting of two bears over at Ft. Abercrombie State Historical Park, and Svoboda says the pair may be getting around.
“There’s a sow with a cub of the year that’s been observed around town and there’s also I believe a single adult bear that’s been around town as well, so I don’t think there’s necessarily a lot of bears that are coming into town, just that three individuals have been seen quite a bit.”
He says bears may be in search of food or just following the magnetic smells of the fishmeal plant. Once animals develop a dependence on humans, it can be a challenge to break the habit.
As for bear deaths, there have been five so far this year, according to Svoboda.
“The four livestock related bears were put down by the ranchers and those were related to bears that were killing livestock. The bear that was put down on the Buskin River was put down by the Alaska Wildlife Troopers in response to some aggression the bear was showing towards fishermen.”
Svoboda says residents should exercise caution when out hiking or walking around.
He says they should travel in groups when possible, make noise, and be aware of their surroundings. And people should be alert all through the year – while many Kodiak bears den down for the winter, says Svoboda, up to 30 percent don’t.