Story last updated at 2:14 p.m. Friday, July 5, 2002

Nuisance bear shot in Homer by troopers
by Carey James
Staff Writer

A young black bear met its demise in Homer last weekend after state Department of Fish and Game biologists and Alaska State Troopers Wildlife Protection officers decided it was no longer afraid of people and was a risk to public safety.

Trooper Travis Bordner shot the bear off Bartlett Street across from Harbor Ridge Apartments on Saturday.

Bordner said the bear had been feeding off Dumpsters and garbage cans in the downtown area for several weeks, and was getting bolder each day.

"When the bear started (getting into trash), it would run away (from people), but it got to where when we showed up, it just looked at us," Bordner said.

According to Gino Del Frate, acting area biologist for the Kenai area Department of Fish and Game, this is the fourth nuisance black bear to be shot in the Homer area this year. The other three were shot by residents with bear-hunting permits. Del Frate estimates six more nuisance bears are still making the rounds in the Homer area.

"This bear's days were numbered," Del Frate said. "Once it starts getting accustomed to garbage and people, it starts losing its fear and getting bolder. This bear was out during the middle of the day. When we get to that point, there's not really a whole lot of hope."

Officials hope that a newly revised regulation will help prevent future incidents like last weekend's. The regulation, which became effective Monday, allows a $50 fine for people who negligently leave human food, pet food or garbage in a manner that attracts wild animals. The regulation also prohibits feeding wild animals such as bear, moose, fox, coyote and others.

Del Frate said the old regulation was difficult to enforce because it required proof that the garbage was being intentionally left despite the risk of bears getting into it. Now, there is no need to prove intention, Del Frate said.

From his perspective, however, it's the repeat offenders who are likely to get a ticket.

"If we respond and we see a situation where the garbage was left out and a bear got into it, for me personally, it would be hard to cite someone the first time it happened," he said.

"I would warn the person about leaving garbage in a negligent manner and tell them to clean it up. If they don't do it, then they can get cited."

Del Frate said another problem in Homer is people who "hoard their garbage."

"Sometimes we see garbage that has been thrown in the back of a truck for eight weeks," he said. "Why people do this, I don't know. It obviously smells. That is a more serious situation, and we are less likely to give that person a second chance. There's no reason to keep garbage around for weeks."

Del Frate said when some people see something has gotten into their garbage cans, they assume it's a neighborhood dog and don't even think of the possibility of it being a bear.

Birdfeeders are another potential lure for bears, and Del Frate said there is no reason to feed birds during the summer months when there is plenty of food naturally.

Dumpsters also present a problem in the Homer area, and not only for bears. Del Frate said he's seen moose grazing at the large garbage bins before. Since the lids easily come off, Del Frate said, he hopes Homer will eventually install bear-proof Dumpsters, as some campgrounds have already done.

"That would be the long-term goal of people who would like to see bears not getting into garbage," he said.

Del Frate said, ultimately, keeping garbage and other alluring items away from bears, moose and other wild animals is just a fact of life in Alaska.

"I think people need to think about the fact that we live in a community that has wild animals that routinely wander through our yards. And if we don't want the animals to stay in our yard, we need to keep our garbage locked up and be aware of the fact that we live with wild animals," he said.