Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh said the department has gotten a few reports of bear sightings recently in the Anchorage area, but only one of them was confirmed.

That's because photographer Todd List took pictures of the lone black bear he spotted along the Seward Highway on Turnagain Arm this past Sunday. List said the bear was between the Potter trailhead and McHue Creek.

(Credit: Todd List Photography)

"There have been a couple of reports of bears starting to poke around outside the dens," said Marsh. "But it's a little bit early yet."

While Marsh said it's a few weeks before bears normally surface, it's not too soon to start putting away the things that attract them. That means putting trash out the morning of pickup, bringing in bird feeders-- anything that would give a bear a reason to wake up and head into town.

"If bears come into a neighborhood and they're not rewarded with birdseed or garbage or pet food or something like that, they're not likely to hang around. If they are rewarded, then we are setting the stage for another summer like last summer."

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Last summer was a record for maulings and also bears that were shot or put down by Fish and Game. Some of those bears left cubs behind and some of them ended up at the Alaska Zoo. The zoo took in a record 11 orphans last summer, according to Education Director Stephanie Hartman. Two pairs of siblings, both 1-year-old brown bear cubs, are the only ones left.

Hartman said the cubs came from south Anchorage and Deadhorse. In each case, their mothers were killed over concerns about public safety.

"We don't want to see the moms getting hurt, we don't want to see the cubs without their moms-- especially out in the wild or here in the zoo," said Hartman. "These guys belong in the wild, so we want to do what we can as individuals or community members to keep them out in the wild."

Marsh said everyone can play a part.

"The best way to avoid that is just don't give the bears a reason to hang around."

He said some bears, like the early riser on Turnagain Arm, may actually go back to sleep once they discover there's no food.

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