Category Archives: bears

Out and all about it: Nurture kids’ love of all nature

Photo by Joseph Robertia. This black bear was seen on the appropriately named Bear Mountain Trail in the Skilak area.

Photo by Joseph Robertia. This black bear was seen on the appropriately named Bear Mountain Trail in the Skilak area.

By Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter

Bears and butterflies carry exactly the same weight in my daughter’s estimation. I learned of this equality on a family outing this spring in the Skilak Wildlife Recreational Area.

My wife, 2-year-old Lynx and I had been canoeing Hidden Lake in the morning, getting up at dawn to beat the heat and breezes that come up as the day waxes on. By midday, the cloudless sky stretched in a spacious canvas of blue, and the sun hung at its zenith. A breeze as soft as a first kiss caressed our still winter-white skin, but it offered little relief to the three of us not yet used to temperatures topping out at 70 degrees.

With our watercraft securely tethered to the top of our car, we set the compass for home, but before we had even dusted our way a few miles down the gravel road my wife grabbed a fistful of my shirtsleeve and shouted, “Stop the car!”

Like most husbands in that situation, I stomped the brake hard enough to nearly put a hole in the floorboard. The car slid to a grating halt on the loose gravel surface, while I — wide-eyed and with adrenaline spiking — machine-gunned at her all the obvious questions: “What? What is it? What’s wrong? What’d I hit?”

Never turning to face me, she switched to a hushed tone and said three of my favorite words to hear while in the wilderness, “Look, a bear.”

We were at the aptly named Bear Mountain Trail. The bruin, black as midnight, seemed completely unconcerned by our presence and swaggered through the parking area and started up the hiking trail. We stared for a few seconds before it rounded a bend and went out of view.

We wanted — we needed — more.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under bears, outdoors, wildlife

Bear safety in mind — Return of light, warmth, means return of bruins

Redoubt Reporter file photo. The return of spring means the return of bears, and the need to be particularly bear aware, as a resident of Kasilof discovered last week after her livestock enclosure was attached.

Redoubt Reporter file photo by Joseph Robertia. The return of spring means the return of bears, and the need to be particularly bear aware, as a resident of Kasilof discovered last week after her livestock enclosure was attached.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Despite the mild winter and warm, dry spring, area bears have been slow to show themselves following their long slumber.

“It’s been pretty quiet. Just a few reports here and there, so some are out, but it’d be a stretch to say they’re all out,” said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

As the bears do become active, they’ll begin to forage for food, according to Selinger.

“They’ll mill about for winter-killed moose and eat vegetation, and unfortunately some of the ones that have been around for a few years know to look where humans live to find food,” he said.

This proved true for Kasilof resident Danielle Marey, who recently lost some livestock to what she believes could only have been a bear. On March 31, she took her kids to school and spent the day in town.

“When I got back home I noticed the 10-by-5 shelter we had built for our pigs had been ripped down,” she said.

The pigs were small, 40-pounders Marey had recently purchased from Kenai Feed and Supply to raise for butchering in fall.

“They came in a little earlier this year than usual, so we didn’t have an electric fence up yet, but we were housing them in a pen we made out of 4-foot-tall panels, and that was inside my garden, which has an 8-foot-tall chain-link fence completely surrounding it, except for one small gap,” she said.

Whatever creature had gotten to her pigs was apparently smart enough to find the break, and was large enough to climb or jump over the panel fence.

“The ground was frozen so there were no tracks, but all of the wounds to the pigs were on their backs, near the neck, and looked like the type of injuries claws would make. And whatever did it had to be strong enough to rip the shelter apart,” she said.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under bears, public safety

Bear minimum — Board of Game sets new caps on brown bear harvest

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Hunters on the Kenai Peninsula will have a little less opportunity to harvest brown bears following a decision from the Alaska Board of Game on March 17, but have the board’s assurance that, should the population start becoming more of a nuisance, problem bears could be converted to more huntable bears.

The Board of Game met last week in Anchorage to consider proposals for the Southcentral Region, including the Kenai Peninsula. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game requested guidance on its brown bear management strategy.

A 2010 brown bear population census more than doubled the estimate of the number of bears on the peninsula. At the board’s previous Southcentral meeting, in 2012, it liberalized brown bear hunting, in part responding to requests from the public that that the bear population be reduced. According to board Vice Chair Nate Turner, the strategy seems to have worked.

“It really rung loudly in my ears at that Kenai meeting how many people came in complaining about the bears, in their view, terrorizing the neighborhoods,” Turner said. “Didn’t hear anything about that at this meeting. (But) did hear a lot of comments about, ‘Things are better now.’”

The department has been managing hunting to limit the total number of human-caused brown bear mortalities to 70 per year, with no more than 17 adult females. Jeff Selinger, Kenai area management biologist for Fish and Game, told the board the department would like to lower those numbers to 40 total bears per year, and no more than eight adult females, but with the flexibility to liberalize hunting opportunities if bears start becoming more of a problem. For instance, if there’s an uptick in defense of life and property shootings.

“If all of a sudden we have five or six DLPs next year, where we only had two DLPs this year, to me that would be more of a trigger, than just what the number of adult females are, to say we need to increase opportunity again,” Selinger said. “We believe we knocked the population down over the last few years. And what we proposed here is our best estimate of what it would take to stabilize the population.”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under bears, hunting

Safe from bears? Don’t fall for it — Delayed onset of winter weather leaves nature stuck in autumn

Redoubt Reporter file photos By mid-November, most bears are in their dens for winter. This year, however, a late onset of winter has extended bear activity, as well.

Redoubt Reporter file photos
By mid-November, most bears are in their dens for winter. This year, however, a late onset of winter has extended bear activity, as well.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

By the calendar, it’s winter in Alaska. Usually by the end of November, the Kenai Peninsula has gotten at least one coating of a couple inches of snow and marked temperatures dipping into the teens or single digits. But this year, winter as usual has yet to arrive. With temperatures in the 30s and just a scant dusting of snow, it feels more like October than nearly December, and wildlife aren’t falling for it supposedly being winter.

Bears, in particular, are still in fall activity mode.

“We had reports last week of bears getting in to garbage or Dumpsters,” said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna, on Monday.

A brown bear was reported getting into Dumpsters and breaking into a garage seeking garbage stored inside in a neighborhood about five miles out Funny River Road, Selinger said.

The Kenai Peninsula Bears page on Facebook has a few reports of bear sightings, as well, including a black bear checking out a neighbor’s chickens on St. Theresa Road in Sterling, posted Nov. 19. Another black bear was seen heading into Woodland Estates in Kenai, posted Nov. 19, and a walker reported seeing fresh bear tracks near Hidden Creek on Nov. 4.

Selinger said that his office gets reports of bears out and about every month of the year on the Kenai, so there’s no guaranteed safe period when all bears are tucked away for the winter, but most by now are denned up for the winter.

“Generally speaking, the majority of your animals, by about mid-November, most should be in the den. Some animals go in a little earlier than others, but usually by now they’re all pretty much denned up,” he said.

“Daylight, snow cover, how much fat they have on them — there’s a lot of factors that can play into it. Usually they want to wait until the ground freezes a little bit and makes it better for digging dens, they don’t cave in as easily. It’s a lot of factors all rolled into one. Generally speaking, the warmer it is the more likely they are to stay out longer,” Selinger said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under bears, moose, wildfire, winter, wolves

Foul play a foot? Likely bear paw sighting an unnerving finding

Photo courtesy of Kelly Keating-Griebel. Realtor Kelly Keating-Griebel saw this appendage on the side of the road in Sterling on Sept. 17.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Keating-Griebel. Realtor Kelly Keating-Griebel saw this appendage on the side of the road in Sterling on Sept. 17.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Being a Realtor inevitably means seeing some interesting things. It’s not being nosy, just that the job entails being in and out of people’s homes, up and down all manner of back roads and touring through all sorts of neighborhoods.

Kelly Keating-Griebel, with Century 21 in Soldotna, has certainly had moments calling for raised eyebrows in her 10-plus years as a Realtor — though, of course, professionalism requires restraint from doing so. But Sept. 17 was a first — a sight more hair-raising than just her brows.

Driving back Wednesday evening from viewing a new listing on June Drive in Sterling, near Mile 81 of the Sterling Highway, something caught her eye on the side of the gravel road. Even from inside her car she could tell it was organic, though it was no longer attached to whatever body it had once belonged. It was long and narrow, fleshy, though decomposing, with a bony joint sticking up out of dark, rotting meat. It was about a foot long, which made sense, since, with five toes, it was clearly a foot. But from what?

“I honestly, honestly, though it was a foot — a human foot. That’s what it looked like,” Keating-Griebel said.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under bears, public safety

No refuge for bear hunt — Public fired up about bear hunting closure

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

It’s been more than a month since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an emergency closure of brown bear sport hunting on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Oct. 26, but debate continues over whether this decision was reached for biological or philosophical reasons.

On Nov. 25 nearly 100 people — federal and state employees, representatives of conservation and pro-hunting organizations, as well as members of the general public for and against the closure — had an opportunity to share their views during a public hearing in Soldotna pursuant to the federal regulations with the emergency closure.

The refuge opened with a presentation by John Morton, supervisory wildlife biologist at the refuge, which detailed that the known human-caused mortality of brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula in 2013 was at least 70 bruins, of which 24 were adult females. This included a minimum of 43 bruins taken during spring and fall hunting seasons, 23 bears killed in defense-of-life-and-property shootings, and bears killed by agency actions, illegal takes or vehicle collisions. Of the 70, 38 were killed on federal lands.

“The total mortalities now represent more than 10 percent of the best available estimate of a total Kenai Peninsula brown bear population, numbering 624 bears,” Morton said.

This is a significant jump in recorded mortalities when compared to the past three decades of known data. While the legal harvest of brown bears has varied from year to year, in part due to changing hunting regulations, from 1973 to 2011 — which includes 34 years of open seasons — the average legal harvest of bruins was 11.3.

The 24 human-caused adult female mortalities in 2013 were focused on as an aspect of concern for a species deemed “a population of special concern” by the state in 1998, and one that DNA analysis has proven is genetically less diverse than mainland Alaska brown bears.

Also, Morton said, while the brown bear population estimate of 624 — up from the previous 250-to-300 estimate in place since 1993 — was determined by the refuge after an extensive, DNA-based, mark-recapture project conducted in 2010, that higher population estimate was essentially a snapshot in time, not one showing whether the population was stable, increasing or declining.

Morton said that a small proportion of subadult (2- to 6-year-old) females in the age distribution, as well as known low rates of yearling survivorship, suggested low recruitment into the overpopulation.

“Survivorship of adult female bears has been shown to be the primary driver of brown bear population dynamics,” Morton said. “Losing so many adult females will have immediate negative impacts on this population.”

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under bears, hunting, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

When eating game, beware the worm — Hunter sickened by undercooked bear

Photo courtesy of Sullivan family. Sully Sullivan was featured in a TV show after surviving a bout of trichinosis.

Photo courtesy of Sullivan family. Sully Sullivan was featured in a TV show after surviving a bout of trichinosis.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

For a hunter, having a taxidermal display of the hide of the head of an animal can bring back fond memories of the hunt. But for the family of Sully Sullivan, these recollections are not always as enjoyable.

“The hide is here on the floor and it’s an awful-looking thing,” said Joy Sullivan, of Nikiski, of black bear her husband, Sully, shot in July in a remote area near McGrath while rebuilding a burned-down hunting camp.

Joy is not opposed to seeing mounts around her house. Rather, her reasons for not liking to look at this particular hide are twofold. One, the bear was still shedding its winter coat, so the fur on the hide is a bit patchy and mealy. Two, the bruin nearly killed her husband, though it wasn’t through a mauling or any other near-death encounter with the bear’s sharp claws and gnashing teeth. It was a much more subtle threat than that.

Sully didn’t begin to understand the trouble he was in until nearly six weeks afterward.

“He started getting really sick,” Joy said. “He’s an extreme guy, so he doesn’t complain or get thrown off by little aches and pains, but he was really sore, to the point he was having trouble moving, and he had severe headaches.”

The symptoms continued for days and finally came to a head when Sully’s stiffness got so bad that he couldn’t even turn his head left or right without being in unbearable pain. Joy recommended he take a hot soak in an Epsom salt bath, but that only exasperated his symptoms.

“He became delirious, hallucinating and totally noncoherent,” Joy said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under bears, health, hunting