Biologist uses GPS to Track Relocated Garbage Bear
STUDY: Following problem animals can offer keys to handling them in the future.

Tony Caroll / Juneau Empire / August 15, 2003


JUNEAU -- A black bear lurking in the Mendenhall Valley woods holds secrets that Neil Barten is eager to reveal.

The area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game moved the female black bear in late July to the "end of the road" near Echo Cove after it was captured during one of its Glacier View Trailer Park trash raids.

When the sedated bear woke, it was wearing a radio transmitter and a global positioning system collar to record its movements.

Barten said the radio transmitter told him it took seven or eight days for the bear to return to Mendenhall Valley, proving "the futility of relocating bears."

Twice this bear has been trapped, sedated and set free about 30 road miles from where it was scrounging in garbage, Barten said. Now human refuse is back in its diet.

Barten said this bear isn't unique. In Northwest Alaska, bears relocated 200 miles have returned to where they started in two to three weeks.

The GPS collar on this Juneau bear will track its odyssey, from the wild to the smorgasbord of a trailer park.

GPS uses satellites to pinpoint a receiver's location anywhere on the planet. It records the bear's position at 15-minute intervals.

Barten said the cumbersome collar is the first put on a black bear in Southeast Alaska.

On Monday, the bear was getting into garbage in the Kodzoff Acres Mobile Home Park, but Tuesday it wasn't, Barten said.

"Maybe it's at Jordan Creek catching salmon," he said.

The information will be shared with students at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School for a class project.

Understanding what bears do is important in learning how to live with them. Barten said the route the bear took was important. He may conclude that a relocated bear may not be able to stake out a salmon stream, because the territory has been claimed by others.

Trailer parks often attract bears because the people who live in them may not have storage areas to secure their garbage, he said. Bear incidents in downtown Juneau have decreased since people were required to keep their garbage more secure.

Typically, a nuisance bear with a yellow ear tag showing that it has been captured and relocated will have to be killed. This one has two.

"I'd like to give (this bear) one more chance," Barten said. "I'd like to take it across the Taku River" to see if it manages in a new wilderness home or heads for the human leftovers at Taku Glacier Lodge.

Distributed by The Associated Press

[HOME] [Back to Current Events archive]

Wolf Song of Alaska, P.O. Box 671670, Chugiak, Alaska 99567-1670

© Copyright 2003
Wolf Song of Alaska.

The Wolf Song of Alaska Logo, and Web Site Text is copyrighted, registered,
and protected, and cannot be used without permission.

Web design and artwork donated by She-Wolf Works and Alaskan artist Maria Talasz

All rights reserved