State Fish and Game officials relocated a pair of bold young Russian River grizzlies Saturday in hopes of keeping the bears away from humans.
"When we first saw the animals, a bunch of people were running away from them, and the bears were trotting right behind them," said wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger.
The yearlings had learned that where there are humans, there's food. They'd been spotted licking up grease near a dumpster at the Russian River campsite, and approaching people, then eating the hastily abandoned food, he said.
Fish carcasses left along the popular river are a prime attraction for bears in the area, Selinger said.
Bruce McCurtain, general manager of the Russian River ferry, said the yearlings didn't seem aggressive but had clearly become acclimated to humans.
"(If) you're walking down the trail and they're walking down the trail, they definitely didn't turn and go the other way," he said.
The yearlings, who were moved to an undisclosed location, were not seen with a sow. They ranged from about 165 to 175 pounds, Selinger said.
To track their behavior, Fish and Game dyed each in three places on its body. One now has yellow markings on its chest and on either side, near its ribs. The other has similar markings, in purple.
"It's just so we can get a positive identification," Selinger said.
Relocating problem bears usually doesn't work, he said. They often come back and get in the same old trouble, or they simply take their bad habits somewhere else. But with no place licensed or ready to take the yearlings in, the only other option was to kill them.
"We want to give these bears every opportunity we can," Selinger said. "In my mind, you can't blame the bears for going to that area with all the attractants that are available to them there."
Contact Kyle Hopkins at adn.com/contact/khopkins or call 257-4334.
By KYLE HOPKINS