Empire Editorial: Don’t butter up the bears

  • Friday, September 25, 2015 1:04am
  • Opinion

We’ve all heard that keeping food away from bears is quite possibly the most important thing humans can do to prevent conflicts, habituation and confrontations between bears and people.

This time of year, it’s more important than ever.

As bears begin to put on those highly valuable, last-minute pounds before hibernation, they start taking risks, and will often wander closer and closer to urban areas. Drawn in by their noses, far too often they find exactly what they hoped: garbage. Or, perhaps it’s chickens. Perhaps, it’s an out-too-early bird feeder.

Regardless of exactly what attracts the bear, if they are successful, they’ll be back. Again and again.

These days, Juneau’s bear problem isn’t as bad as it was in the early 2000s when authorities were getting more than 1,000 calls per season. Still, the recent uptick in negative bear activity, especially in the downtown area, underscores the importance of ever present vigilance. In the past week, dumpsters have been repeatedly overturned. While a bear may not be getting much, if they get anything at all from their efforts, that source will be targeted until efforts become fruitless. And as we saw last week when a bear got a jar stuck on its head and had to be sedated for the jar to be removed, leaving trash where bears can get to it can also be dangerous.

And we all know what the worst-case scenario looks like: A fed bear is a dead bear. While real, that scenario is one that residents never like to hear about.

Hence, our role is simple: Keep garbage secured, chickens protected with an electric fence, and animal foods and bird feeders neatly tucked away until the end of October.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has published numerous articles on this topic, and we highly recommend readers take a look at what information those pieces have to share.

When we have a problem bear or bears, it goes far beyond just another mess to clean up; it becomes a safety issue, too.

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