4 bears killed at Alaska campground reserved for homeless

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Authorities in Alaska have killed four black bears at a campground recently reserved for homeless people in Anchorage after the city’s largest shelter was closed.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Department officials on Tuesday killed a sow and her two cubs and another adult bear, who appeared separately and stole food from tents inside Centennial Park, which are administered by the city, officials said.

Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city with nearly 300,000 inhabitants, but it’s also bear country.

The park is located in eastern Anchorage, located between Chugach State Park and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, which state wildlife officials describe as a large bear habitat.

The Department of Fish and Game said residents of Anchorage divide the municipality with up to 350 American black bears and up to 65 brown bears.

“It’s definitely a busy bear time for us all over Anchorage,” department spokeswoman Cynthia Wardlow said.

This part of Anchorage “tends to be a fairly active bear area due to high-density housing,” she said.

The city closed its pandemic mass 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 to Centennial Park and seized the 84 vacant seats after the campground stopped taking reservations from the public.

Corey Allen Young, a spokeswoman for Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, said 210 people live in Centennial Park and that the city has provided increased security for campers.

The city “has also brought in 60 bear-safe food storage containers, 20 bear-proof 32 gallon containers and is making hourly clean-up efforts to mitigate the waste and food. We are also continuing to inspect camps and train campers on safe practices for bears,” Young said in an email. .

The campground, just off Glenn Highway, is “an ideal base for Alaska travelers,” says the city’s website. But it also warns campers not to store food inside tents or outside in coolers so bears are not attracted to campsites.

Wildlife officials said before the bears were killed, they went into tents to pick up food, personal hygiene items and trash.

When bears enter tents or structures, they pose a risk to human life and are considered a threat to public safety, and they can be killed.

“Centennial Campground staff are doing the best they can to manage the campground and minimize lures, but there are still a lot of tents with food in them,” said Dave Battle, the fisheries and game department’s area biologist in Anchorage, in a statement. “Until that changes, more bears will enter the campground and enter tents.”

He said this is a safety issue for campers.

“Killing a certain bear is a very temporary solution,” Battle said. “There will always be more bears in that vicinity because of its location, and we can not teach bears not to eat what they can find.”

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