Last year was a banner year for problem bears in Haines; local experts hope this year will be different

A bear cub in Haines in 2010. (Creative Commons photo by Ray Morris / Flickr)

After a late snowmelt, brown bears in the Chilkat Valley have emerged from hibernation and are foraging for food. Last year, a record number of bears were killed, which launched several community initiatives to combat bear attractants. These prevention efforts should serve Haines well this year, say biologists and public safety officials.

Almost daily, sometimes twice a day, the people of Haines receive alerts from the Haines Police Department that there is a bear in the area. This week there was an alert during the afternoon that a brown bear was seen on Main Street heading towards school.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Carl Koch said that with the late snowmelt there has been less vegetation and bears are foraging for food.

“They have a great sense of smell,” he said. “Some say as well or better than a bloodhound.”

Koch says that as of 2019, salmon runs and berry yields were poor, resulting in intense scavenging activity for bears. Last year, Koch says he received daily phone calls.

“They come out of the den hungry,” Koch said. “The landfill was a bit safer, but there were loads of freezers and things like that that bears had gotten into, including dumpsters and things like that.”

Koch says the key is prevention. So be sure to secure any trash or food sources that would attract bears to the area.

“You will always have bears. We are not going to bring it down to zero, ”he said. “But you can drastically reduce the complaints you know if things really get better. “

Last year there were record numbers of bears in and around Haines, and even broke into homes and cars, meaning they were conditioned by food. In total, there were 452 calls to Haines Police and an unprecedented 46 bears killed.

Haines Police Chief Heath Scott said at the same time last year there were 52 bear-related calls; this year there have been 35 appeals so far.

“So it’s a pretty close follow-up,” Scott said. “I think we’re going to have a year as involved as last year. So we’re just going to help keep everyone updated on what’s going on, and try to coordinate with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game from an education perspective and us from an education perspective. app, and hopefully we’ll prevent some of these interactions.

Wildlife biologist Carl Koch says Haines has already put in place several prevention measures, which should serve the community well this year. There are more fences at the Haines Landfill, a new bear task force, an alert system for sightings, and a bear ordinance. Residents are required to secure garbage cans and other attractants such as chicken coops, pet food or anything outside or in cars.

“There is certainly no judgment here,” Koch said. “We live around bears so people are going to bring bears to their backyard, we just know that if things are really secure the number of calls will be more manageable and it will be better for everyone in the community. . “

Koch says Fish and Game is here to help people with any support or advice they need. They also lend electric fencing to secure the property.

Residents of Haines can report a bear sighting by contacting Carl Koch directly at (907) 465-4329.

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