Be Bear Aware for Spring
Gov. Sean Parnell has proclaimed April “Bear Awareness Month” in Alaska. April is when bears typically emerge from their dens looking for food for themselves and their young. There are already scattered reports of bear sightings around Juneau, Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula.
Alaskans need to remember to secure attractants such as garbage, bird seed and pet food so bears and other wildlife don’t find food around homes, in neighborhoods or at camps or cabins. It is illegal to feed bears, even unintentionally, and many Alaska communities have additional ordinances requiring residents to keep garbage out of reach of bears.
When bears first come out from their winter dens, they eat emerging greens supplemented with any winter-killed carrion their super-sensitive noses lead them to. This diet is usually insufficient to help bears regain the body weight they lost during hibernation. During early spring, bears are still losing weight and making use of their stored fat reserves from the fall. Bears may not begin actually gaining weight until the early summer berry crop ripens.
While garbage is an obvious draw for a bear, many Alaskans underestimate the attraction of bird feeders to bears. Bird seed is high in protein and fat, exactly what a hungry bear is looking for in the spring. Once a bear associates a home and people with food, its prospects are not good. Minimizing attractants keeps neighborhoods safer for people and bears.
Following are a few tips for preventing bear problems in your home and neighborhood:
1) Garbage - Store garbage and animal feed inside buildings or in bear-resistant containers. Keep your garbage secured until the day of your scheduled pickup. Encourage neighbors to do the same.
2) Gardens and Compost - Plant gardens out in the open, away from cover and game trails. Avoid composting meat and turn your compost over frequently. Finely chopped fruit and vegetable matter will decompose faster and is less likely to attract bears. A quality electric fence used properly can keep bears out of gardens and compost piles, and away from buildings and domestic animals.
3) Livestock and beehives - Domestic animals, including chickens, may attract bears. Secure your livestock behind electric fences.
4) Bird feeders - Bears love to eat birdseed and suet. Take down bird feeders from April through October. Clean up dropped seeds and hulls.
5) Barbecues - Regularly clean barbecue grills, especially the grease trap, after each use.
6) Pets - Feed pets indoors or pick up excess and spilled food between meals.
7) Freezers - Keep freezers locked in a secure building or otherwise out of reach of bears.
Alaskans should also be vigilant when recreating in bear country. Most bears tend to avoid people, but bears are curious, intelligent and always looking for food. Remember, bears don’t like surprises – make noise and be aware of your surroundings. Keep a clean camp. If you do see a bear, give it plenty of room.
For more information about coexisting with bears, go to www.alaskabears.alaska.gov