The Alaska Department of Fish and Game killed a brown bear sow and her yearling after Sitka Police were unsuccessful in attempting to haze the bears with rubber bullets.
Local biologists say the bears behaved “boldly” and posed a public safety risk.
The brown bears were spotted by multiple residents digging through trash and pawing windows near Cedar Beach Road and Shotgun Alley.
In consultation with the Sitka Police Department, the two nuisance bears were killed July 31 with high powered rifles by Fish and Game during an evening patrol.
The bears became more active in daylight hours – treating garbage as a food source.
Wildlife biologist Stephen Bethune said that’s the kind of behavior that poses a risk to humans.
“People were putting their trash out correctly on the morning of trash pickup and the bears were coming out in the daytime, and hitting those trash cans before the garbage trucks got to them. Things just escalated really quickly,” he said.
Sitka General Code states that all trash that’s a known bear attractant, like meat scraps and dirty diapers, must be put out after 4 a.m. on pickup day.
Putting the two bears down was a tough decision, Bethune said, but he determined euthanization was a safer option than tranquilization and relocating the bears to another place.
“The drugs take several minutes to take effect,” Bethune said. “You have a situation, potentially at night with a sow and a cub, and you dart one of them. Are you able to find them? It may take several days to be successful at that. In this situation, we just felt like there was too much of a public safety risk to take that step.”
Bethune sees the potential for creative solutions, such as electric fences and storage sheds to surround garbage cans.
But adopting a city-wide solution would take money.
“There are other types of aftermarket garbage cans that are much more bear-resistant than what the city is currently using right now. It comes down to people’s priorities,” Bethune said. “Somebody has to pay for these upgrades. At this point, the bears are paying for it.”
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