Garbage Bears are at it Again
RIVER: Residents who improperly store trash outdoors could be cited
O'Hara / Anchorage Daily News / October 21, 2003
Two or more brown bears roaming neighborhoods above Eagle River over the past
few weeks raided trash again early Monday morning.
This time biologists took photographs of three houses in the Eagle Crossing area
where the bruins scattered garbage, and forwarded the snapshots to Alaska State
Troopers. Offenders could be fined $100.
"We're trying to break this whole cycle of us responding to the bears," said
Rick Sinnott, management biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game. "My
reasoning now is if I'm going to get up at 3:30 in the morning to go to Eagle
River, then somebody is going to get a citation. This is enough."
Sightings between Sunday night and Monday morning included bears in the woods,
bears digging in blue construction trash bins, bears hitting trash cans by two
homes on Eagle Place Loop, and a bear rummaging through a pickup's bed on Highland
A state law revised last year holds people liable when bears dine on their garbage
because of negligence or improper storage. Sinnott and police said they didn't
think any Anchorage resident has been cited yet.
But issuing fines sounds good to Eagle Crossing homeowners association president
Thomas Jennings, who said he and other people have been frustrated with some
neighbors who don't take the presence of bears seriously and keep storing their
The practice violates the association's rules and common sense, he said. The
organization has sent out letters, applied peer pressure and issued a few $25
fines. But some people still don't keep their refuse in a garage or screened
"It's totally outrageous," Jennings said. "It's unconscionable because our garbage
pickup day is Thursday morning."
Staff members and teachers at Alpenglow and Ravenwood elementary schools have
been talking to parents and kids about bear safety during the past week, said
School District spokesman Roger Fielder. Ravenwood held indoor recess one day
when someone reported a bear nearby, and Alpenglow practiced evacuating the playground.
"They're doing a lot to stay on top of it," Fielder said. "They're having extra
staff outside the schools in the morning and afternoon, providing an extra set
For at least two weeks, a fat, fluffy brown bear has been eating garbage and
visiting Eaglewood, Eagle Crossing and other neighborhoods on the hillside above
the river-bottom greenbelt east of Eagle River Loop.
A pair of bears were reported in the area beginning last Thursday, and no one
is quite sure whether there are two or three bruins wandering around.
State biologists have received more than 50 reports and visited the area 13 times
to try to catch the bears in the act and shoot them with rubber bullets to drive
them off. If the bears don't change their habits, biologists might have to kill
The sightings ranged from a bear in a grease bucket at a home near Ravenwood
to a bear in a yard near Wal-Mart to a bear sauntering porch to porch on Highland
Ridge Drive last Wednesday morning, apparently sniffing around for stray eats.
Sinnott and assistant biologist Jessy Coltrane had visited the neighborhood twice
before 11 a.m. Monday, including one trip in the middle of the night. They saw
a bear moving off into the woods but didn't get a good look in the dark. They
planned to return last night, in time for the eve of Eaglewood's garbage pickup
"I'm thinking of buying a house in Eagle River and just moving out there," Sinnott
Last week, Karen Deatherage, with Defenders of Wildlife, visited the neighborhood
and distributed 250 door hangers urging people to properly store garbage, pet
food and birdseed away from bears.
"We're getting a 1,000 more door-hangers printed as we speak, and we'll be out
there later this week," she said.
"Killing these bears is never going to solve the problem. As long as there is
garbage available, the bears will keep coming."
"The best chance is if everyone puts away their trash," Sinnott added. "We've
got to break the link. It's an easy solution. Especially since everyone in that
neighborhood has a garage."
Daily News reporter Doug O'Harra can be reached at email@example.com .
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