Summer of peace


The sign that said it all about bears in Anchorage last year/Craig Medred photo

A year on from a record kill of problems bears in Alaska’s largest city, the Anchorage bear “problem” appears to have all but evaporated.

As the bruins head for hibernation, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports a death toll for the snow-free season of but two grizzly bears and four black bears –  about a seventh of the 40 bears of both species killed last year.

It is the lowest kill since seven dead bears in 2013 in the sprawling, 1,700-square-mile of municipality dominated by the half-million-acre Chugach State Park and surrounding federal lands home to an estimated 250 to 350 black bears and 55 to 65 grizzlies.

Nowhere in North America is there a major city with the number of bears roaming its subdivisions and outskirts as here.

And though the bears haven’t all gone to their dens for the winter yet despite newly fallings snows, it appears that for the first time in the last three years Anchorage is going to get through the year without a fatality after two straight summers of deadly bear attacks.

A predatory sow grizzly and her cubs claimed the life of hiker Mike Soltis, 44, in the suburb of Eagle River at the start of the 2018 summer, and a predatory black bear killed 16-year-old Patrick “Jack” Cooper in 2017 as he descended Bird Ridge south of the city after a June mountain run. 

The most serious injury in the area this year involved a local woman suffering from a bit of bearanoia who accidentally shot herself while backpacking in the Talkeetna Mountains north of the city. 

Fish and Game spokesman Rick Green, a controversial state hire who advocated for shooting more bears in the name of public safety while a local talk-show host, said the agency for which he now works was happy to see a summer with so few bear problems after a year in which a concerned Anchorage assemblyman hosted a meeting to ask “Bears! What Can We Do?”

Why the peace?

Green couldn’t, however, explain what caused the change.

Climate maybe?

The state’s Southcentral region enjoyed a record warm summer that brought an early green-up and a phenomenal June growth of vegetation. Gardener Dale Marshall credited the warm weather for the 2,051-pound pumpkin he weighed in at the Alaska State Fair. 

It topped the old record, also set by Marshall, by 600 pounds.

Bears are omnivores, and Green admitted that access to greater quantities of wild foods might help keep them away from chicken coops and out of homeowners’ garbage, bird feeders and dog food, thus keeping the bears out of conflicts with humans.

Most of the bears killed last year became problems after they moved into edge-of-the-city neighborhoods in search of food. Too often they were encouraged to stay after getting into improperly or inadequately secured food that is garbage to humans and a goldmine to hungry bears, or finding a chicken coop irresistible.

Bears hanging around neighborhoods looking for food appeared less of a problem this year than last.

But the record kill last year and the 34 bears killed in 2017 might also have had something to do with the low kill this year. Kills by state or local officials, or by homeowners in defense of life and property (DLP), tend to remove from the bear population the animals with the least fear of humans.

Green noted that years with big kills tend to be followed by years with smaller kills, and that might have something to do with both reducing the size of the bear population and taking out the least wary of the bears.

Only nine bears were killed in Anchorage in 2016 before numbers started ticking up toward last year’s record kill, Green said, and that seems to represent something of a statistical pattern:

A significant number of bears are killed. The population is reduced. The number of kills drops. And then the bear population begins to increase and shootings start creeping upward again.

Thus this year’s low kill shouldn’t be taken to mean much more than that for one summer humans and bears both got relatively lucky.







22 replies »

  1. I have a general policy agreement with the Bears. “Don’t mess with me and I wont mess with you.”

  2. Thank god all the bears have been killed. Let peace reign throughout the land. Now pass the granola man…Just hope they don’t keep charging me trillions for “Global Warming” and my safety. Guess “they” know what is best. “two grizzly bears and four black bears – about a seventh of the 40 bears of both species killed last year.
    It is the lowest kill since seven dead bears in 2013 in the sprawling”

    • Bryan,
      On the subject of “Peace” how do you feel about the Democrats coming out as War Hawks these days in Washington as Trump is pulling U.S. soliders out of Syria?
      Seems funny that the Politicians on the supposed “left” who speak so highly of human rights are now opposed to ending U.S. occupation in Syria?
      Don’t get me wrong…Trump is no pacifist by any means.
      He is deploying as many troops to Saudi Arabia as he is withdrawing from Syria and he has surpassed Obama’s amount of drone strikes during the same period in office.
      I do find it ironic though that liberal media outlets are ranting against Trump’s “anti war” posturing.

      • This coming from a man who posts:
        “At about 10 yo I was riding a donkey on the pack-tree in Olympic Nat’l, in a string of Park trail-workers, when a cougar leaped down from a big branch on a snag right in front of us.
        CRASH Crash crash crash; horses & donkeys helter-skelter, rolling downhill, trying to run uphill, failing & rolling back down into the tread.”
        This is merely one example of your Anecdotes that have peppered your responses for weeks.
        Of course all of these stories are highly relevant to you…
        Not so much myself.
        Thanks for your opinion.

      • Ted,
        I think you make a better donkey rider than a mediator and that ain’t saying much.
        Every time I bring up the war in the middle East you tell me basically to get off the site.
        Well, just so you know it is not your site to mediate.
        And of course everything you right is just your opinion nothing more.

      • Steve,

        When I started watching here some weeks back (I also watched at Alaska Dispatch, back when, and at ADN), site owner Craig Medred was inserting special text into the page, letting readers know that he was thinking about shutting down the Comment Section.

        Craig communicated to us that he was receiving complaints from Readers, that they might like to Comment at times, but that a few people where filling the comments with endless back-and-forth, extraneous junk.

        For a site like Craig’s to (have to) turn off comments, is a bad turn of events. Good commenting is very good for a site like this. People using the comment section for their own private & unrelated purposes, though, both degrades the value of comments to other readers, and it harms the site with the search engines; Google.

        There is usually plenty of opportunity & leeway when commenting, on say bear-culling in Anchorage (which itself can wander kinda widely), to legitimately air one’s political point of view … reasonably on & related to the subject at hand. Your comment here, however, falls into the realm of hijack-spam, plain & simple … and it’s habitual.

      • Ted, I agree comments should work hard to stay on topic. That said with the combination of free speech and Craig’s suggestion at the top ( a site for readers and thinkers ) it makes for the concept of subjects diverting to other subjects a common issue.Steve may have the habit of advertising his separate thoughts but I personally think your labeling of his valid question as spam is advertising yourself as a snowflake . Live and let live . I think it’s darn important what Steve brought up . Democrats actually showing their colors as war hawks trying to keep America involved in forever wars to the benefit of military industry complex and being extremely partisan instead of making the best decisions for our country. Uniting under a ethical theme of not killing millions. They were openly ignoring their constituents desires . Just using controversy to attack trump . Lindsay gram also showed his colors. If those sob want to fight I say charter them planes and let them do it one on one . Money where their mouth. Pretty important issue in our current political corruption situation. The truth comes out !! The democrats could have used this moment to bring out country together and to an ethical direction, instead they abused their platform in government for their own ends . Not good . Let’s let Craig speak for himself if we need disciplined because we hash things out and follow the trail then so be it . I’m listening. Otherwise I invite you ted to defend your war hawk position. You don’t have the high ground. Maybe you should volunteer to head to the Middle East .

      • Steve, I can understand Trump putting some troops in Saudi Arabia after the Iranians blew-up the oil fields. Understandable. But, what I dont understand is Hillary calling other people Russian “operatives” when she has Uranium One and faked Russian Collusion nonsense to her credit.
        Plus, this hypocricy will answer more of your question. It never ends with Democrats.

      • Opinion,

        When I put a war-related article up on my site, then all are welcome to hold forth … on what is after all a pretty darn wide Subject. Right, Left; Warrior, Pacifist.

        Hijacking, or otherwise spamming or stuffing a comments section with unrelated crap, holds back/down a website that is trying to grow, become better established (once a site is big-time, then it can absorb a lot more trash). But when the secondary content (comments are Content) accumulating in the pages is largely junk, then the website is down-ranked, based on the low quality of its content. There’s lots of room at the bottom … it might never come up out of the basement … if its quality doesn’t improve.

        Thus, an otherwise very good article on bear-control in Anchorage ends up on the 3rd page of Google returns (or can’t be found), instead of being partway down on the 1st page. Makes a big difference … Google isn’t going to give a high recommendation, when too much of the Product is problematic.

        Severe situations do sometimes arise with comments, where you just ban the miscreants flat-out, and basically start over … being more-vigilant, nipping issues in the bud when they’re little & easy. The situation here at CraigMedred is fairly moderate, and I would think that ‘guidance’ would suffice to reduce the noise-level to where it doesn’t adversely affect readers or SEO.

        But if a comment-problem is allowed to just run, it generally will.

        I’ll check out of this off-topic thread now. 😉

      • Ted , I’m very interested in your line of thinking on seo . You clearly know something I’m not well versed in . You made a good point if it works the way you said . Separately I question the value and interest in a site that forces commenters into a robotic discussion. Also I should have clarified that you sort of twisted the definition of spam . Spam usually would be considered something that creates a link that profits the spammer / advertising or virus – to my limited knowledge. Sort of like when you keep mentioning your future site . Which is fine by me . I am very interested in your technical opinion about comments off the topic messing with traffic or rankings. Very good point. I sure wouldn’t want to mess with someone’s ranking by accident. I should study more.

      • Opinion,

        Ok, I lie like a dog. I’ll stick with this off-topic thread, since you’ve raised important points.

        Yoast SEO is the #1 WordPress SEO plugin, running on over 5 million websites. The “Ask Yoast” column has a post, “Comment systems and SEO”. By ‘comment systems’ he’s referring to replacements for the stock WordPress comments, like Facebook Comments and Disqus. Sites use these to put some distance between themselves & the challenges of managing commenting properly. Big sites do this, because the load is horrendous … little sites sometimes follow suit:

        Q: – “There is no question that the Disqus service takes a little while to load on a webpage. So, do these blog commenting services, like Disqus, affect SEO in some way?”

        A: – “Do they affect SEO? Well, yes, they do. Because, in fact, they’re so slow to load that most of the time, what you see is that Google doesn’t load the content of those comments, and doesn’t use them to rank that page. Which might be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how good your comments are and whether your comments have a lot of content or not.

        #1. Comments are indeed “content”, and they count. #2. If your Comment-content is not good, it’s in your favor if Google never sees it. Crummy comments are worse than none (off-topic comments are “noise”, and your page takes a hit for it). #3. If you have good comments, but Google doesn’t see them, that’s a bummer, because they would boost your site. #4. Google’s ranking of your page is indeed partly based on its comments.

        I’ll cut here and continue in separate comments.

      • Opinion,

        Spam is an exploit-method, based on the placement of illicit content or messages.

        The most familiar type of spam is about making money, trying to sell junk, rip people off.

        The most important type of spam is about security, trying to set up networks of vectors for future attacks, eg.

        Individual & amateur spamming in various forms goes on too, at ‘relatively’ lower levels, only because commercial & institutional spamming is at such a huge level.

        “My site! My site! My wonderful & beautiful Site!!”, for example, could be regarded as personal-promotional spam … sure, absolutely … except that each & every comment that anyone makes includes a textbox next to our Name and Email Address, for our own website URL … and then our name or ‘handle’ on every comment we make, becomes a live link to our site. It’s part of the basic deal or ‘contract’, of commenting. The website gets something of value – good content – and the comment “contributor” gets something of value: a platform from which to direct attention back to our own website.

        Private-spamming example #2. Most of you will recall that some years back we went through a prolonged spell in which primarily personal efforts were made to disrupt, damage and hopefully take down websites that supported mushing & sled dog racing. Mainly via comments. This general category of hostile (usually political) amateur spam is more widespread & significant than you might think.

        Trolling is a familiar form of personal-spamming, aiming to create conflict among commenters.

        ‘Yes Virginia’, we are under both a real-practical & an ethical-moral obligation to make a good-faith effort to write comments that are meaningful & relevant to the topic posted by the website owner. Comments that deliberately & consistently do otherwise, are illicit content – spam.

      • Steve Stine said,

        Every time I bring up the war in the middle East you tell me basically to get off the site.
        Well, just so you know it is not your site to mediate.

        To clarify, I have encouraged you to place small off-topic ‘posts’ that you have made here, on your own website instead. I think your misplaced content should go somewhere more appropriate … but I’m not saying “you” should go.

        It doesn’t matter one bit, Steve, that your site isn’t ready to go live. You can still post Drafts, and they will not appear in your public-facing pages. (And I think you know this … that you can keep working on Post-ideas, completely out of the pubic eye. I have a lot of these work-in-progress drafts.)

        If this stuff you are posting here is important to you – and afaik there is no real doubt about it – you shouldn’t lose track of it by scattering it through another website, where it is not appropriate. You should take good care of it, as though is of value & importance to you – which it is, right!?

        I’ll tell you a non-secret Steve. Comment sections that are echo-chambers, for lack of a Duty Opposition, are the less for it. As the old song says, you can put a lot between the lines. You can’t just ‘fake’ an on-topic reply, and then segue off into unrelated territory – not legitimately – but there are still endless angles to work any subject.

      • Opinion,
        I feel U are right on in your comment:
        “Pretty important issue in our current political corruption situation. The truth comes out !!”
        The fact that our current state of affairs is one of a 20 year war in the middle east and the fact that the Democratic party had at one time claimed to be the anti war party seems relevant to our current “news”.
        I really did just want to know Bryan’s opinion since he is our resident expert on the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party.
        Personal generated comments by a real person are not SPAM…this is reserved for machine generated bulk emails and “robot posts”.
        Like my comments or not….I am a real thinking human trying to contribute to the conversation.

        As for “Ted”.
        You can make up the rules all you want for your blog…not Craig’s.
        Maybe U can send him an email and tell him to censor my comments (hint you would probably not be the first).
        I wonder if you are really “Ted Clayton”…the former TV star of (One Life to Live), a character on soap opera or just another “died in the wool” conservative here to disrupt conversation in AK?
        Either way, I am not looking for your advice: )
        BTW…you have way more (long winded) comments on this thread than anyone else (many of which are totally irrelevant) …maybe you live in a home with no mirrors?
        Just so you know you are not the first guy to show up and try to derail conversation…and you won’t be the lasy either!

      • Bryan,
        Why can’t Saudi Arabia provide their own soldiers to these conflicts?
        They do have a large military (who is actively bombing in Yemen with U.S. arms our government sold to them)…
        It seems like more of the U.S. Military playing the global police officer or worse hired mercenaries for Saudi oil industry?
        As for the Democrats…
        I guess this is how we got Trump in the first place…the lesser of two evils.

        “It is right to get our troops out of Syria,” Senator Elizabeth Warren told Rachel Maddow in early January…
        But there were just as many Democratic presidential contenders who went to bat for forever war.
        Senators Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris have all basically said Trump is reckless in hastily withdrawing from Syria and even Afghanistan, and were relatively quiet when the president made his original announcement in December.”

        Seems like the lobbyists from Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have taken over the majority of congressional votes these days.
        This is a huge problem for peace and security of our future.

  3. At about 10 yo I was riding a donkey on the pack-tree in Olympic Nat’l, in a string of Park trail-workers, when a cougar leaped down from a big branch on a snag right in front of us. CRASH Crash crash crash; horses & donkeys helter-skelter, rolling downhill, trying to run uphill, failing & rolling back down into the tread.

    So I always heard lots of bear stories, since I had one of the best cougar stories around – backed up by sober church-going Christians. There was a standard format to these older bear stories.

    1.) It was about a half mile away. 2.) It was only seen for about 1/4 second. 3.) It was moving 30, maybe 40 mph, through impenetrable brush. 4.) It had to have took air, clearing the far ridge-line.

    Anchorage’s bear-problem isn’t that mysterious. How many other places have to tell people when to take their bird feeders down & put them up? After authorities figured out folks were going through 50# a week, per head?

    And Old Roy dog chow goes from used-to-was brand to #1 globally? Mm-hmm.

    Obviously it’s worth a few causalities to the residents, to have the exciting wildlife coming to them & up-close … instead of having to go out and find them in the wild.

    Obviously, the bear-casualties count for even less; there’s 10 more waiting out there for each one that has to be culled.

    We don’t have that here yet. Cougar were the in-yer-face issue, when predators started being seen in settled areas, which was a non-starter because they prefer small children … but the (black) bear also went scarce again, shortly after they started getting ‘casual’, too.

    But I was pretty shocked when the pet deer first started being see up & down our local rural roads. Weird … and not just an Anchorage malfunction.

  4. “But the record kill last year and the 34 bears killed in 2017 might also have had something to do with the low kill this year.”

    Makes sense…the government killed all the bears (many were shot out of helicopters without knowing their involvement in past incidents) and this year there are fewer bears around.
    Seems like the yuppies got their peace on the trails they desired after all.

    Luckily there is an “Alaska” outside of the Anchorage Bowl.

  5. Make complete sense. Killing bears that have become habituated to humans is good for bears and humans.

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