Four black bears seen frequenting East Anchorage homes this year have been euthanized, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Fish and Game biologist Dave Battle said the department got daily calls this summer about the sow and three cubs getting into trash and birdseed.
“We probably got more reports of conflicts with that particular group than probably any other single bear or family group this summer,” he said.
Then, they started to den under two decks in the area, looking for a place to hibernate. One homeowner tried installing an electric fence, and the other tried building a plywood fence around their deck. Neither kept them out. Fish and Game drove them out with bear spray several times.
“They would just come out, mess around in the woods nearby for a couple hours and wait for the spray to dissipate, and they would either go back under the same deck or they would go under the other deck, which was about a mile away,” he said.
Battle said the bears’ reliance on human-provided food – in the form of improperly stored trash and birdseed – made them more comfortable around humans. Fish and Game decided to euthanize the four bears after analyzing their behavior.
“We didn’t just kill them for denning under decks. That was the final issue, but it was the progression of their behavior,” Battle said. “The sow was just getting so comfortable around humans. I was concerned, because I could probably walk up to within 10 feet of her, and she’s not showing any fear.”
The department called zoos and animal rescues around the state and country to try to avoid euthanizing the cubs, but none of them had room. Battle said this happens every year.
“There are always cubs that get orphaned and there’s no placement for them, and very often they have to get euthanized,” he said. “It’s sad, but it’s just a fact that there will never be enough placements for all the cubs that get orphaned.”
Battle said the average homeowner does not have to worry about finding a family of bears under their deck. But, he said, it’s a good idea to remove birdseed from yards in October and November, when black and brown bears are preparing to hibernate. He said properly storing trash and birdseed can help Fish and Game avoid having to euthanize more bears in the future.