A Kodiak brown bear and her three cubs that have taken up residence in town are prompting concerns for public safety, and wildlife officials are upping their efforts to haze the bears from residential areas – and urging the public to keep their distance.
The sow and her cubs had been seen frequenting neighborhoods and popular hiking trails near town late last month. And on Friday, the Kodiak Police Department sent out a Nixle alert that the bears had swam to Near Island – a hiking area popular with families and dog walkers.
Nate Svoboda is the state’s area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He says the cubs are probably two-and-a-half-years-old, and by Monday, all four had found their way back to the heart of town.
“She was on Mission [Road], we followed her til about 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m., and then she swam across Potato Patch Lake, and then she ended up kinda by the hospital last night, and now this morning she’s been on Rezanoff [Drive],” said Svoboda.
The bear and cubs were also spotted by the ball fields and homes near Baranof Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Svoboda says it’s not unusual for bears to pass through residential areas on their way to other natural food sources – and overall, these bears have been pretty good about staying out of trash.
“But, you know, people are getting too comfortable with her, she’s getting too comfortable with people, and that’s just a bad mix,” said Svoboda.
Svoboda says there’s also concern that the cubs may become desensitized to people. Attempts to haze the bears by the Kodiak Police Department, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and officials from Fish and Game – including bear spray and cracker rounds – haven’t worked, according to Svoboda.
He says wildlife officials will be stepping up their efforts to push them out of town with other more forceful hazing techniques – like larger non-lethal rounds. If that doesn’t work, Svoboda says they’ll have to shoot them.
“It’s unfortunate, it’s just the reality of the situation. We all love bears, that’s why we love here, it’s why I’ve dedicated my profession to working with bears, but public safety is paramount,” said Svoboda.
Svoboda says people can help by cleaning up trash and other attractants from around their yards to make it less likely that the bears will stick around. But most importantly, they need space.
“We need people to leave them alone,” said Svoboda. “People are – she’s constantly got a group of people following her it seems like for the most part, and that’s not very helpful. It’s great to get pictures of her and it’s a cool opportunity to see them walking around, but we really don’t want her to get any more comfortable around people than she already is.”
Meanwhile, Svoboda says members of the public should be vigilant while the sow and cubs are still in town.