Charges were filed against two Haines men for the shooting brown bears recently in cases that highlight the challenges of bear and humans coexisting.
Forty-eight-year-old Kevin Shove is charged with failure to salvage a bear he claims he shot in defense of life and property. Alaska State Troopers say Shove shot a large male brown bear on his Haines property on August 8. Instead of reporting the death and turning the bear over to authorities to salvage as required by law, Shove instead used a backhoe to bury the bear on his property.
Twenty-three-year-old Dalton Huston was charged after killing a sow and two cubs near his home at 7 and a half mile. Troopers say Huston chased the bears off his property on August 10 and the bears left. Troopers allege Huston then pursued the bears and shot all three of them. He is charged with three counts of taking brown bear out of season and unlawful possession of game.
Both men will appear in Haines court in early September.
Stephanie Sell is a wildlife biologist with Alaska Department of Fish and Game. She says the bear shootings are “dishartening.”
Sell said from what she knows of the cases, they were both instances of bears getting into fruit trees or garbage. Sell says if a property owner wants to grow or have crops or stock, like chickens or cherry trees that are appealing to bears, it’s also the owner’s responsibility to keep them secured from bears.
“Chickens are like a beacon in the night and so are fruit trees. So, bears are going to target into that and keep coming back as long as there is fruit there.”
While brown bear sightings are common in the summer in Haines, this year has been particularly active, with the Haines Police Department blotter listing several calls each day about bear sightings or encounters. The bears seem to be taking advantage of a bumper crop of berries and tart cherries on trees around town, as residents have reported foraging bears throughout Haines and in outlying neighborhoods.
Sell says the encounters are not unusual, but that residents need to be vigilant about deterring bears, rather than waiting for a dangerous encounter to happen. She said some of the best deterrents are electric fences and bear proof containers.
“Bears are out. It’s something that happens every year and I don’t know how to many times I can stress this, but we need to keep garbage contained, we need to keep attractants contained, whether that be in a bear proof containers, or out of sight or taking your garbage to the landfill.”
Sell also recommends noise-making devices, like air horns, clapping and even banging pots and pans to chase bears off. She says Fish and Game offices also have some Critter Gitter noise makers available for loan. They also have electric fences for short term loan for property owners to try out.
Fish and Game has more information about Living with Bears at their website.