Relocated Government Hill Black Bears Reappear in Hope
May 07, 2015
The five bears were relocated Friday morning, May 1, to the Chickaloon Flats area in a remote corner of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge south of Anchorage. Prior to release, the bears were fitted with VHF (very high frequency) radio tracking collars to allow biologists to follow their movements. In addition, the sow was fitted with a GPS collar.
The bears headed east shortly after release and by Monday (May 4), were traced to within 1.5 miles of Hope. The bears initially appeared to bypass the community of 200 residents, but VHF signals indicated that on Tuesday they had returned before leaving Hope and heading south up Resurrection Creek.
“As far as I know, the bears didn’t get into any trash and they certainly didn’t show any signs of aggression,” said Kenai Area Wildlife Biologist Jeff Selinger.
Selinger and an assistant notified the local postmaster and school officials that the bears were in the area. Meanwhile, Hope residents appeared to be doing a good job of keeping garbage and other attractants secure and out of bears’ reach, Selinger said. If the bears are not rewarded with trash or other human-supplied foods, chances are good that the animals will keep moving into the vast forests and hills surrounding the community.
“The last we saw of them, late this afternoon, the bears were out of town and heading south up Resurrection Creek,” Selinger said. The animals appeared to be eating dandelions. “Green-up is happening and there are plenty of natural bear foods available for them.”
The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is separated from Anchorage by Turnagain Arm to the north and banked by the Kenai Mountains to the east. The straight-line distance between the release site and Hope is roughly 15 miles.
The five relocated bears became well known in Government Hill last summer when unsecured trash drew them to the neighborhood repeatedly for easy meals. Complaints resumed in mid-April when Government Hill residents reported the bears had returned and were turning over trashcans, climbing backyard fences, and drawing throngs of onlookers.
Public safety concerns were raised as the bears grew increasingly bold around people. At the same time, onlookers and photographers were observed pushing boundaries, sometimes creeping close enough to alarm the sow and prompt her to huff and pop her jaws.
After an initial decision was made to kill the bears, requests from the public to spare the sow and four yearling cubs led Gov. Bill Walker and the department to reach a collective decision to instead relocate them.
Efforts to relocate bears often fail because the animals may travel long distances to return to their location of origin. In one case recorded by the department, a brown bear relocated from Cordova to remote Montague Island in Prince William Sound was killed in Cordova less than a month later within 100 yards of its original capture site. The bear’s return entailed a 50-mile-long straight-line journey, which required a minimum 7-mile-long open saltwater crossing of Hinchinbrook Entrance from Montague Island.
Even when relocation results are permanent, the solution is often only short term as new bears will move into the area. Within a day of Friday’s relocation of the Government Hill black bear sow and four cubs, the department began receiving reports of new black bears in the neighborhood.
Alaska residents are reminded to secure trash and other attractants to discourage bears from lingering in developed areas.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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