A black bear is seen at the Alaska State Capitol on Oct. 4, 2018. (Megan Wallace | Courtesy photo)

A black bear is seen at the Alaska State Capitol on Oct. 4, 2018. (Megan Wallace | Courtesy photo)

Bear-ly any nuisance bears in Juneau this year

Less easy food, bumper crop of berries kept them in the woods

Juneau is having a quiet year for so-called nuisance bears after several very active seasons.

A nuisance bear is a bear that’s lost its fear of people, making their way into human environs and posing a risk to itself and others.

“It’s way way down from last year,” said Carl Koch, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game stationed in Juneau. “I don’t remember what the volume was (in 2018), but I think it was over 900 calls between us and JPD.”

Koch said that city trash can policies and a record berry crop contributed to the ebb in bear calls. Bears are most often attracted to the smell of garbage, Koch said, and the city’s efforts to harden those targets have contributed to a decline in bears wandering into people’s lives this year.

“So far we haven’t had to handle any black bears this year in the Juneau area,” Koch said. “Although I’m told that the calls of complaint have picked up a bit this fall in the Juneau area.”

A male black bear chases spawning sockeye salmon in Steep Creek at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on August 16, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A male black bear chases spawning sockeye salmon in Steep Creek at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on August 16, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The news comes after a report that nuisance bears in Anchorage are also down, possibly due to the same berry crop. But nuisance bear reports in Haines are up, Koch said. Koch has made several trips to the Southeast town and advertised how to minimize the risk of attracting bears. Brown bears are particularly prevalent in Haines, Koch said.

“Haines is having one of the busiest seasons since 2015,” Koch said. “It’s a smaller town too, and there’s less resources to stay on top of it.”

Bears that are declared a nuisance need to be handled, either through relocation or euthanization. Bears injured beyond recovery in traps or car crashes are also euthanized. Koch said that last year in Juneau, two mother bears and three cubs were relocated elsewhere. About eight bears, a mix of cubs and older bears, were euthanized either because their injuries would not allow them to survive, or because they were starving past the point being able to bounce back. Four nuisance bears that could not be remediated were also put down last year in Juneau, Koch said.

“We always try to place any orphaned cubs at appropriate, authorized, captive facilities when available, but black bears are quite common, and often the facilities requesting bears fill up quickly,” Koch said.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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