With human-bear encounters making headlines around the state, it’s a good time for a reminder to Kenai Peninsula residents that we live in bear country.
Wildlife officials still are investigating two fatal maulings believed to be predatory attacks by black bears in other parts of the state — incidents they characterize as extremely rare.
Two men were injured last weekend in separate incidents in encounters with brown bears. An Anchorage man was seriously injured while bicycling on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson by a sow believed to be protecting a cub; another cyclist was able to drive the bear off using bear spray. A man near Hope sustained minor injuries when he came across a bear near a cabin in the area.
With those encounters comes a reminder that in bear country, whether it’s the Peninsula’s backcountry or your back yard, certain safety precautions are necessary.
First and foremost, if you’re out and about for a walk, a hike, a bike ride or a jog, even in your neighborhood, be aware of your surroundings. Make a little noise so that a bear in the vicinity knows you’re coming. Most negative bear encounters happen when a bear is surprised. If you’re headed out to one of the many Kenai Peninsula trails, go with a group. Bring a bear bell and the bear deterrent you’re comfortable using, whether it’s pepper spray or a firearm.
Around your house, minimize bear attractants — anything a hungry bruin could construe as food. We’ve already seen a few social media posts of bears poking around in back yards and rummaging through unsecured trash. Alaska Department of Fish and Game recommends that residents keep trash in bear-resistant containers or inside. Animal feed should be stored in a secure area. Bird feeders should be put away for the summer. Chest freezers stored outdoors should be locked or secured with ratchet straps.
Of particular concern to residents in the coming season should be proper disposal of fish carcasses. Numerous bear issues in recent years have started with fish carcasses carelessly dumped in or near a neighborhood.
Bears are smart animals, and they’re looking for the easiest meal they can find. Make sure easy food sources aren’t available, and most of the time, they will be just passing through, not sticking around to cause trouble.
Living with bears — and all the other animals that thrive on the Kenai Peninsula — is part of what makes life here such an adventure. Following a few simple guidelines makes living here safer for everyone.