Bartlett Bear Visit Adds to Muni Encounters: What's Being Done?

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by Natalie Travis

(Anchorage, AK)  After Anchorage police officers say they chased a black bear out of Bartlett High school today, Fish and Game officials show up.

"We're trying to put a radio collar on it, its got a GPS antenna to the collar, so we would get location on the animal about every 15 minuets," said Sean Farley, Research Biologist for Fish and Game.

According to biologists, the collars are part of a small pilot study looking at movement patterns of bears causing problems in town.

"When we got here {Bartlett} we checked in with APD, the bear had been observed heading off into the trees so we just loaded up {dart gun} and went looking for it on the off chance maybe we would run into it," Farley said.

Often times biologists claim they're faced with tough choices when it comes to bear issues and look at each one on a case by case basis, sometimes they relocate.

"Say a Black Bear finds its way downtown, it's just going to getting into trouble downtown if we don't tranquilize and relocate it," said David Battle, Assistant Area Biologist for Fish and Game in Anchorage.

Other times Fish and Game says it has to kill, for example if there is a big safety risk, like a bear defending a carcass or if it's an abandoned cub with no placement.

"We always try to find placement first, we have one guy in Juneau who handles all of that who is a permitting officer, he canvasses zoos and that sort of thing to see if we can find any kind of placement for orphan cubs, if we can we will try and capture them and take them there, but very often you can't find placement," Battle said.

A lot of this is avoidable according to officials and say a fed bear is a dead bear.

"Bears are notorious for coming back from long distances, so relocation is not usually an option, we are never going to relocate if it's getting into garbage in someone's yard, we are going to try to get people to clean up their garbage, because if we relocate that bear if he's already learned that behavior, he's going to do that where ever we relocate him too," said Battle.

Fish and Game urges the public to be responsible, it can be as simple as storing trash inside or getting bear proof trash cans, which demonstrations have shown to be pretty effective.

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