Temperatures might be down in Kodiak, but that doesn’t mean bear problems are down too. The local Fish & Game office has tracked down and shot two problem bears in town this week, and they’re reminding residents — not all bears hibernate in the winter.
Bears have been frequent visitors around Kodiak the last few months, getting into trash roll-carts, dumpsters, even breaking into vehicles. Nate Svoboda, area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game said they’ve been able to identify two bears as the culprits.
“Unfortunately, as you can imagine, they’ve become conditioned eating non-natural foods,” he said.
Svoboda said they caught up to one of the bears on Tuesday night eating out of a dumpster on Selief Lane and put it down.
“This is the ‘big bear’ that everyone’s been talking about that’s been getting into dumpsters and roll-carts and everything else for the last couple months.”
The “big bear” was over 10 feet and weighed close to 1,200 pounds, says Svoboda. During a necropsy Wednesday morning, he says they found plastic and other trash in its stomach.
Fish & Game located and put down the other bear, a 6-year-old male around 600-700 pounds, a few days earlier. Svoboda says they found that one at the exact same dumpster eating trash.
Fish & Game works with Kodiak Police and wildlife troopers to haze bears in town to get them to move on before they resort to putting them down.
“Once we have bears that are habituated to these foods and we tried to try some adversive conditioning trying to get rid of them through non lethal means. If that’s unsuccessful, sometimes we have no choice but to put the bears down.”
Bear awareness is a year-round necessity in Kodiak. Referencing a study from a previous area biologist, Svoboda says that about 30 percent of male Kodiak brown bears don’t hibernate at all. And even though a colder winter like this one probably means more bears are opting to den, Svoboda says they’ve actually had more calls reporting bears this winter than the last few years. That’s likely because of trash problems, he says. When bears have a steady supply of food, they won’t choose to hibernate.
As in the summertime, Svoboda says it’s important to be cognizant that bears are out and about. Don’t leave trash outside or in vehicles, and ensure that bear proof dumpsters remain locked.