Boost in bear activity means extra safety measures for Dillingham residents

Jul 20, 2020

"Ultimately what we want to do is we want to dissuade having to put down a bear and discourage residents from having to [take a bear in the Defense of Life and Property]," said Regional Management Coordinator Todd Rinaldi.

A bear on a driveway on Nerka Loop in Dillingham. July 7, 2020.
Credit Courtesy of Dan Dunaway

Bears have been active in Dillingham this summer, and a number of sightings and reports has prompted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to take a particular interest in promoting bear safety in the community; it began a campaign in partnership with the City of Dillingham to raise awareness of how to act in potentially dangerous situations.

The area doesn’t have a wildlife biologist right now, as the position was recently vacated. While the department works to fill the position, Fish and Game’s Regional Management Coordinator in Palmer, Todd Rinaldi, is stepping in. He says some of the more potent bear attractants include fish guts, animal bones, smoke houses, seal oil, and grills.

“If bears are coming into a community, typically what happens is that there’s attractants in the area,” says Rinaldi. “There’s something that’s attracting the bear into the neighborhood or to the fisheries facility. Because there’s good smells there’s a chance for free food. What we encourage folks to do is to reduce the number of attractants and types of rewards a bear may encounter by coming into your yard and your fish camp.”

Livestock – like chickens and goats – and bird feeders can lure the big critters as well. Rinaldi suggested removing, limiting, or protecting these enticements with electric fences as well as putting trash in airtight containers or in secured sheds.

“Often times, bears will come into a neighborhood and if they don’t find any rewards, they’ll fortunately keep moving on and that’s what we like to see. We like to see bears come through and move on but sometimes that’s not the case and it’s because there are additional attractants in a neighborhood.” Rinaldi said. “By taking these steps, by securing attractants, we hope to reduce not only the number of  bears that might come into a developed areas, but fortunately we should be able to reduce the number of bears that might have negative human encounters.”

When Fish and Game or wildlife troopers are called to confront bears, they start off with trying to scare it off with basic techniques like yelling, chasing, and simple projectiles such as bean bags. If that doesn’t work, they may use noise makers or cracker shells.

“Ultimately what we want to do is we want to dissuade having to put down a bear and discourage residents from having to DLP a bear, that’s taking a bear in the Defense of Life and Property. There is a statute in Alaska that provides for this but there are a lot of conditions that have to be met,” said Rinaldi.

Rinaldi said for that law to apply, people need to minimize attractants.

“The defense of life and property is a legal avenue for protecting your life and property but unless steps have been taken to minimize attractants, shooting a bear in defense of life and property when you have a pile fish guts in the middle of your driveway, for lack of a better a better scenario, is probably not going to go well with not only law enforcement, it’s not going to go well with your neighbors and community members.”

Proper procedure if a bear is killed in defense of life and property is to immediately contact both the state troopers as well as the department of fish and game. Hides, skulls, and claws attached must be turned into the state along with an incident report found on the ADF&G website. Artifacts from bears killed in DLP are then sold during the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous auction in the following spring or used for educational purposes.

If bears are a consistent nuisance in an area, Rinaldi pointed out another avenue for getting rid of a bear is to hunt it during the appropriate season.

“Alternatively a lot of the areas that your listeners are listening from have liberal bear seasons. They have long bear seasons and some areas have long black bear seasons and that is an additional opportunity to take a bear that might be creating a problem in your neighborhood if it is done safely and done through a hunting permit”

Legally hunted bear skulls, hides, and claws do not have to be turned in to the state. More information about bear safety can be found on the ADF&G website

Contact the author at brian@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

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