A family of five black bears, a mother and four yearling cubs, returned to Government Hill near downtown Anchorage last week. They roamed the area last year when the cubs were babies and came back. The area is densely populated with many people living in the area. People surrounded the bears to take pictures with their cellphones and chased the bears, making a dangerous situation worse and causing the mother bear to start huffing and popping her teeth in defense of her family.
Officials from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game planned to euthanize the bears because of concerns about public safety. Euthanasia is the normal action for bears looking for food or becoming accustomed to people whether in neighborhoods with many people or in urban parks. These bears have learned they can find food in trash and would continue to roam populated areas looking for easy food.
The department could not relocate the bears because of expense and the possibility of disease being transferred to other bear populations. The bears would also be in danger of other bears defending their territory; particularly the little ones would be in danger. The bears could not be left in the Anchorage area because they would probably return. Alaska Governor Bill Walker saved the bear family from death, apparently because of the public outcry about killing the “cute little bears.”
For anyone who agrees with the Governor’s action, let me pose a few questions to you. Suppose you saw five black bears in your neighborhood. What would you do? Suppose those bears came while your children were outside playing in your yard. How would you save your children? If the children ran to get away from the bears, the bears would be on them in no time. Being mauled by one bear is terrible; imagine a child or two being attacked by five bears!
The best way to protect the bears is to not provide food for them. I have seen signs in cabins out in “bear country” that say: “A fed bear is a dead bear.” Often it is human laziness that causes bears to be put in the situation of needing to be killed. We need to listen and obey when we are instructed to take down our bird feeders and put away all the dog food. We need to get bear-proofed garbage containers – or do as we do and keep the garbage in the garage until just before the garbage truck comes. Other times, it is human stupidity that kills bears – like surrounding them and taking pictures.
I have a daughter who lives in Government Hill. It would be easy for her to cross paths with the bears without even knowing it. She could walk out her front door and come face to face with a bear or two. Last summer I walked around the corner of my house and found two moose in my backyard. Moose are fairly easy to deal with as long as they are not bothered. Bears are a different story. They chase and attack people, sometimes without any provocation.
Alaskans know that bears live in the mountains surrounding Anchorage and can often be seen in the green belts in the Anchorage area. We watch for them when hiking and fishing and try to steer clear of them. It is much more difficult to do this when bears invade our subdivisions. Any bears that decide to take up residency near populated areas need to be taken care of quickly. The people trained to deal with wild animals should be allowed to use their education and experience to do so. I believe the Governor was wrong in interfering with the professionals.