Alaska wildlife officials have killed four black bears at a camp recently set aside for people in Anchorage who are homeless after the city’s largest refuge was closed.
Employees with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Tuesday killed a sow and her two cubs and another adult bear that was acting separately, stealing food from tents inside Centennial Park, which is managed by the city, authorities said. .
Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, with almost 300,000 inhabitants, but it is also the land of bears.
The park is located in eastern Anchorage, sandwiched between Chugach State Park and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, which state wildlife officials describe as vast bear habitat.
The Department of Fish and Game said Anchorage residents share the township with up to 350 American black bears and up to 65 grizzly bears.
“It’s certainly a busy time for all of us in Anchorage,” said department spokeswoman Cynthia Wardlow.
This part of Anchorage “tends to be a pretty active bear area due to the high density of housing,” he said.
The city closed its massive pandemic shelter at Sullivan Arena on June 30. The arena had housed hundreds of homeless people over the past two years, Alaska Public Media reported.
When the shelter closed, some homeless people moved into Centennial Park and took up the 84 available spots after the camp stopped accepting reservations from the public.
Corey Allen Young, a spokesman for Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, said there are 210 people living in Centennial Park and the city has provided increased security for users of the campground.
The city “has also brought in 60 bear-proof food storage containers, 20 bear-proof 32-gallon containers, and is conducting hourly cleanup efforts to mitigate litter and food. We also continue to inspect campgrounds and educate campers on bear-safe practices,” Young said in an email.
The campground, just off Glenn Highway, is “an ideal starting point for Alaskan travelers,” says the city’s website. But he also warns campers not to store food inside tents or outside in coolers so bears aren’t attracted to campgrounds.
Wildlife officials said that before the bears were killed, they were breaking into tents to obtain food, personal hygiene items and garbage.
When bears enter tents or structures, they pose a risk to human life and are considered a threat to public safety, and can be killed.
“Centennial Campground staff is doing the best they can to manage the camp and minimize attractions, but there are still plenty of tents with food,” said Dave Battle, an area biologist with the Anchorage Department of Fish and Game, in a statement. release. “Until that changes, more bears will come into the camp and get into tents.”
He said this is a safety issue for campers.
“Killing any particular bear is a very temporary solution,” Battle said. “There will always be more bears in that neighborhood because of its location, and we can’t teach bears not to eat what they can find.”