People and bears: Too close for comfort
How close is too close? People in Anchorage are pushing the boundaries when it comes to bears, wildlife experts say.
Our cameras were on-scene this weekend when crowds of people came within feet of a mama black bear and her cubs.
The family of bears drew a big crowd at Goose Lake Park Saturday. They were spotted again Monday morning in the parking lot behind Bartlett High School.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials say they’re worried about how close people are getting to these animals.
Royce Holmes was working in the area and saw them in the high school parking lot.
“They came out over there by the hospital and walked along the fence and then they dipped into the woods over here and they’ve just been kinda hanging around,” Holmes said. “First thing I did was take my camera out.”
Fish and Game biologist Dave Battle says Holmes isn’t alone. Camera phones lure people too close to wildlife.
“Camera phones have not been our friend. It’s great, everybody has a camera on their hip, but those don’t usually zoom all that well,” Battle said.
That’s what happened Saturday at Goose Lake. The bears had a big fan club, getting within feet of the animals as they foraged in the trash.
“I am worried that people are getting too close and people are just not using good sense,” Battle said.
He says black bear aggression in Anchorage is rare and these bears are showing a higher-than-normal tolerance of their human companions. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to come so close, especially to a mom with cubs.
“It’s very rare for them to protect their cubs from people, but they are still wild animals, and she is still a mama and you don’t want to give her any reason to take a swipe at you,” Battle said.
Holmes says he and his crew kept their distance.
“We were far enough away, I wasn’t too worried. Got the camera out and took a couple pictures and then let everybody on the job site know there are bears around,” Holmes said.
He says they’re going to take precautions now that they know they aren’t the only ones in the area.
“Now that we know they’re here, we’ll be keeping an eye out, making sure our food at least, that we take it with us at night,” Holmes said.
Battle says Anchorage isn’t a zoo and people need to remember that any time they see wildlife. The consequences of getting too close could be deadly, not just for us, but also for the animals, he says. If the mama bear lashes out it could mean a death sentence for her and her cubs.