Some Bears Still Active on Anchorage Hillside

Once the snow flies and the skis come out of storage, most Anchorage residents expect bears to be asleep for the winter. But this winter, at least one brown bear, likely a boar, is still roaming the hillside area. Substantial bear tracks have been spotted on some of the popular cross country ski trails there. And the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage ski conditions forum is buzzing with posts about the bear. Anchorage area biologist Jessy Coltrane, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, say’s it’s not unusual for brown bears to be awake this time of year.

“While we do see bears up later into the season and even into late November, we typically don’t have bear activity in town from mid November on. So that’s what’s a little bit unusual about this year. Eventhough bears may very well be up until mid November, we usually just don’t see them in town at this time,” Coltrane said.

Coltrane says easy food sources, like outdoor trash and backyard chickens, can convince bears to delay hibernation. And she says both have been problems on the hillside recently. But she also says the early snow cover this winter may make it seem like the bear problem is worse than it really is. That’s because bear tracks in the snow stick out like sore thumbs.

“I think what’s really dramatic right now too is that if you’re out there on the freshly groomed trails that were just groomed last night and the only other thing that’s been out there is a bear, it’s really obvious. Whereas in the middle of the summer, there could have been ten bears that walked that trail where you hit it running that day, and you wouldn’t know it because it didn’t leave any tracks,” Coltrane said.

Coltrane recommends carrying bear spray while skiing. But she hopes Wednesday’s frigid temperatures will help prod the bear to turn in for the winter.

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Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie