Anchorage asked to be bear aware after Government Hill encounter

a bear
Anchorage police posted a close-up photo of a black bear in a Government Hill dumpster seen Monday, April 15, 2024, on Facebook, calling for residents to give urban wildlife a wide berth. (From Anchorage Police Department)

Spring is returning to Anchorage and so are the city’s bears, prompting warnings from local authorities to properly store trash and avoid provoking the animals.

Cory Stantorf, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Anchorage area biologist, said Tuesday that staff had received only a few local reports of bears so far this year, primarily from the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson area.

Anchorage police posted a close-up photo on Facebook of a black bear in a dumpster, seen Monday evening in the Government Hill neighborhood near base. The person who reported the sighting to police dispatchers said “people are flocking around it to take pictures,” prompting police to call for giving bears and other urban wildlife a wide berth.

“Can we locals please not behave like tourists?” police wrote.

Stantorf said only police had responded to that call, adding that Fish and Game staff haven’t shot any bears in Anchorage so far this season.

He said Monday’s incident is a good reminder for residents to regain their bear awareness as bruins return to town. A good first step is securing bird feeders and other potential attractants like trash, which can be stored in locking bear-proof containers. Feeding game is an offense under state law, carrying a fine of $320.

“If you know bears, this is what keeps bears coming around to neighborhoods,” Stantorf said. “Once they figure out there’s a food source there, they keep coming back.”

Heavy snowfall, like the snow dumps this winter that have made it the city’s second deepest ever recorded, has driven moose into urban areas. 

But Stantorf said the deep snow doesn’t have a major impact on bears because they tend to stay near their dens immediately after emerging from hibernation.

“The only thing that might hinder them with a lot of snow is the ease of traveling (soft snow vs. hard snow) as they are foraging in the spring, otherwise, it does not seem to impact them,” he said in an email.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has declared April Bear Awareness Month, and Fish and Game has posted a Facebook video featuring tips on bear-proofing urban homes.

Police say residents should call 911 if they’re in imminent danger of being harmed by wildlife. Regional Fish and Game offices can also take phone reports regarding wildlife, which can also be submitted through Fish and Game’s website.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number to call to report wildlife danger.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Chris here.

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