ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska conservation officials have killed four black bears at a campground recently set aside for people in Anchorage left homeless after the city’s largest shelter closed.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials on Tuesday killed a sow and her two cubs and another adult boar that traded separately and stole food from tents in the city’s Centennial Park, officials said.
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, with nearly 300,000 residents, but it’s also bear country.
The park is located in eastern Anchorage, nestled between Chugach State Park and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, which the state describes as a vast habitat for bears.
The Department of Fish and Game said Anchorage residents share the borough with up to 350 American black bears and up to 65 brown bears.
“It’s definitely a busy bear season for us all over Anchorage,” said department spokesman Cynthia Wardlow.
This part of Anchorage “is generally a pretty active bear area because of the high density of the enclosure,” she said.
The city closed its pandemic mass shelter at Sullivan Arena on June 30. The arena had housed hundreds of homeless people in the past two years, Alaska Public Media reported.
When the shelter closed, some homeless people moved to Centennial Park and grabbed the 84 available spaces after the campground stopped taking reservations from the public.
Corey Allen Young, a spokesman for Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, said Centennial Park is home to 210 people and the city has provided enhanced security for camp users.
The city “has also brought in 60 bear-proof food storage containers, 20 32-gallon bear-proof containers, and is making hourly cleanup efforts to reduce waste and food. We will also continue to inspect camps and educate campers about safe practices for bears,” Young said in an email.
The campground, just off the Glenn Highway, is “an ideal jumping-off point for travelers in Alaska,” says the city’s website. But it also warns campers not to store food in tents or outside in coolers so bears aren’t attracted to campsites.
Animal protection officials said that before the bears were killed, they entered tents to collect food, personal hygiene items and waste.
When bears enter tents or structures, they pose a risk to human life and are considered a threat to public safety and can be killed.
“The Centennial Campground staff is doing their best to manage the campground and minimize attractants, but there are still a lot of tents with food in them,” Dave Battle, the biologist with the Fish and Game division in Anchorage, said in a statement. . “Until that changes, more bears will come to camp and go into tents.”
He said this is a safety issue for campers.
“Killing a particular bear is a very temporary solution,” Battle said. “There will always be more bears in that area because of the location, and we can’t teach bears not to eat what they can find.”