Two Kodiak groups teamed up and held a town hall meeting last weekend to solicit public opinion about bears in the community. It’s one of the first steps towards revising Fish and Game’s policies surrounding the furry critters.
Summer is finally reaching Kodiak, and soon, bears will, too. The animals will soon be seen again around beaches and dumpsters. To promote better community behavior and revise policy, Kodiak Unified Bear Subcommittee and the borough’s Solid Waste Advisory Board teamed up to hear the public’s perception of bears.
Larry Van Daele is the director of the Kodiak Brown Bear Trust and serves on both committees, but previously served as the bear biologist on the island for decades. He said interactions between humans and bears are more common than they used to be.
“We do have more bears around here than we did 20 years ago, and people are much more tolerant than they were of bears 20 years ago,” he said. “But that being said, there needs to be better control of garbage and human foods so that bears can’t have access to it.”
Van Daele said other issues the boards regularly see includes getting too close to bears or crowding areas after one is spotted and shared on social media. He said it’s common for folks to block roads to get better views of ursines around the archipelago.
The meeting was attended by Fish and Game staff as well as people in waste management as they heard what the community wants and expects.
“We had a variety of public members from folks that literally wanted to make this a no-bear-zone and kill every bear that comes near town to other people that felt it very important that we find ways to live with bears because they were here first,” Van Daele said.
The Kodiak Unified Bear Subcommittee is under the Kodiak’s Fish and Game Advisory Committee. Van Daele said this weekend’s discussions will inform reports as they head up to the Board of Game, and could eventually affect the Kodiak Archipelago Bear Management and Conservation plan, which went into place in 2003.
“That plan is what they call a ‘living document,’ he said. “It wasn’t meant to be written and put on the shelf, it was meant to evolve. So we’re going to look at that plan and say ‘How best should we manage bears around the town?’ and after we evaluate that internally, then we’ll go out for another public meeting or a series of public meetings.”
Van Daele said the best practice for now is to make sure trash is properly stored until pickup, avoid blocking roads when viewing bears, and maintain a healthy distance from wildlife when possible.