‘Story Map’ Reveals Hidden Lives of Anchorage Bears


A new map from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game offers a bear’s eye view of Anchorage. The “story map” draws on data and video collected from nine bears- six black and three brown- who wore cameras on special collars in 2012 and 2013. The videos capture bears playing with lawn art, slurping up barbecue grease and running across busy intersections.

Sean Farley is the biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game who led the study.

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Interview Highlights

Why they’re in the city:

“They’re not here to visit us. They could give a hooey about us. They’re here for the garbage, the fish, the berries, the gull eggs, the equisetum, the grasses, the dandelions.”

Bears interacting with other bears:

“We might capture a lone bear, usually a youngster, put a camera on it and more often than not it would hook up with two or three other bears and pal around with them. And in one case we had a young black bear hook up and play with a young brown bear. So they’re a little more social than we give them credit for when they’re young.”

A bear takes a picture of the biologist, from a tree:

“I’m a biologist and that was a head slapper for me.. black bears spend a lot of time in trees and they do in Anchorage. I had just grilled a hot dog and was looking out my window and I realized I was looking at a black bear in a tree in my yard and I’m not way up the hillside at all. I ran outside and it was a collared bear and it actually took a picture of my house.”

The bears are all around:

“From previous work I can tell you that an awful lot of times bears might be 10 or 20 yards off in the bushes while we walk down the trail. We’re a visual species- we don’t see them therefore there aren’t any bears here. But the truth is they’re off to the side being good bears, frankly, avoiding people.”

Confronting the garbage problem:

“Because we do have an awful lot of unsecured garbage, I hope we can really change that. We really need a stronger effort to get bear resistant containers that people can use, and that will make a difference. Because we’re always going to have bears in Anchorage. Anchorage is a big city, but we’re in the middle of wilderness.”


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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori