Electric wires surround a chicken coop to deter bears at a North Douglas home on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Electric wires surround a chicken coop to deter bears at a North Douglas home on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Neighbors frustrated over bear shooting

The shooting death of a brown bear in the Tee Harbor area has neighbors frustrated over the city’s regulations governing chicken coops.

Neighbors who believe the bear’s death could have been prevented spoke out at a Monday City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting. The 420-pound brown bear was shot on Sept. 11 by an Alaska State Trooper after the bear charged, according to a trooper dispatch. It had gained access to a chicken coop at a residence on Randall Road.

Michelle Warrenchuk, a neighbor who keeps chickens in the Tee Harbor area, said responsible chicken coop owners shouldn’t have bear problems. Her property lies on a corridor to a nearby salmon stream which bears frequent. She says she’s seen the same brown bear on her property twice last month.

“I guess I just have a lot of questions, how could this have been avoided?” Warrenchuk said in a Wednesday phone interview.

Warrenchuk’s coop is enclosed by an electrified fence, which she says is “critical” piece of bear deterrent. At the time, the coop raided by the now-deceased brown bear was not surrounded by an electrified fence.

“I think electric fences are critical for areas that have a lot of bears,” Warrenchuk said.

The Alaska Department of Fish &Game recommends chicken coop owners use electrified fences, but they are not required by CBJ.

ADFG has heard 427 calls about bears in the Juneau area this year, biologist Stephanie Sell said. In at least 27 of those incidents, bears had gotten into chicken coops. Sell said that if she took into account anecdotal reports made directly to her and her colleagues, she estimates that number would be “three times as high.”

Electrified fences could prevent much of that.

“It’s a tool that we recommend to people for anything that they have that they want to protect, whether it’s livestock, it’s an airplane out in the field, your camp in the woods, anything like that,” Sell said. “It not only gives you a little peace of mind that you’re protected by the elements outside you, but also it has been proven to be affective against bear, wolves, coyotes.”

Fish &Game has several electrified fence kits they can loan out to locals. Sell said she hopes to start doing clinics in the spring to demonstrate how to effectively set up an electrified fence. Electrified fences aren’t strong enough to kill humans.

Trooper policy

Chickens are considered property, which means Alaska State Troopers will use force to protect them from bears. Trash is not considered property, an important distinction in Alaska’s “defense of life and property laws,” which allow the lawful killing of animals under certain circumstances.

For example, killing a bear that gets into poorly-secured trash will get a homeowner cited. Killing a bear that gets into a clean chicken coop will not.

In the case of the Randall Road killing, the unidentified chicken coop owner had a clean coop and wasn’t cited for having bear attractants on her property.

Lt. Chad Goeden, the commander of the Department of Public Safety Training Academy in Sitka, trains all Alaska State Troopers, many Village Public Safety officers and some municipal police.

Goeden said Alaska State Troopers don’t receive bear-specific firearm training. Some of the wildlife troopers may get bear-specific shooting training later in their careers and will often learn through their superiors what to do.

“It’s such a rare incident that we don’t teach specifically to that kind of incident,” Goeden said. “Quite frankly, it is far more likely that an officer will have to shoot a person in the line of duty (than shoot a bear) and it’s very rare that an officer will have to shoot a person.”


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com.


Electric wires surround a chicken coop to deter bears, plus netting on top for aerial predators, at a North Douglas home on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Electric wires surround a chicken coop to deter bears, plus netting on top for aerial predators, at a North Douglas home on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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