Young Juneau bears are now getting kicked out of their dens

Black bear
A young black bear lingers in the front yard of a KTOO employee’s house in July 2018, effectively blocking entrance to the house. (Matt Miller/KTOO)

There have been scattered reports and a few pictures of Juneau black bears recently popping up on social media. But so far, there have not been many conflicts related to the bears’ food sources.

Roy Churchwell, an area biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said that’s because bears coming out of hibernation in this spring’s wet weather have been munching on the grasses, sedges and dandelions. Soon, they’ll shift to salmonberries and blueberries.

Churchwell expects bear sightings to increase in the next few weeks as yearlings or one-year-old bears get kicked out of the den by mom.

“Basically if you see a bear that’s kind of about the size of a German Shepherd, that’s probably a yearling bear,” Churchwell said. “And it’s supposed to be on its own.”

“They do tend to be more curious and, and we do get more calls about those bears, compared to when they’re with mom, and she’s kind of taking care of them,” he said.

City and Borough of Juneau’s garbage ordinance specifies that garbage should be kept in a secure location until 4 a.m. on pickup day.

“Basically, folks can’t have their garbage out before the morning of garbage pickup,” Churchwell said. “You should be keeping your garbage inside a locked garage or some fairly secure methods so that bears can’t get into it.”

Already this season, Churchwell said they believe they spotted what they are calling the “Car Bear” because of its behavior last year. He said the bear learned how to open car door handles in order to get at food left inside vehicles.

“A lot of folks would come out in the morning, and all the cars along the sidewalk would all have their doors open as the bear had gone through and checked them all out,” Churchwell said.

Some vehicles were even damaged by the bear.

Churchwell said they recently put out a bear trap in the Mountainside Estates area, but Car Bear already seems to have moved on.

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