Rick Sinnott

In the sun-dappled birch woods of Midtown Anchorage, on property owned by the University of Alaska Anchorage, a young, male bear lies buried in a shallow grave, a secret grave. Headless, its four paws lopped off by a saw, the anonymous bear’s only crime was expressing interest in a flock of chickens in a Muldoon backyard. No chicken was unduly molested. Nevertheless, the chickens’ owner blasted the young black bear two or three times in the back with a semiautomatic handgun. The shooter turned himself in and was released without charges. Once again, a publicly owned bear has proven to be much less valuable than a privately owned chicken. The luckless victim is destined to be exhumed next October by a forensics anthropology class taught by Dr. Ryan Harrod. Securing a bear carcass I met...Rick Sinnott
"Problem bears." That’s what people call bears that get into garbage. As Anchorage’s wildlife manager I worked with bears and people for 16 years. The real problem wasn’t unraveling the nature of bears; it was in understanding human nature. Anchorage dumps an estimated 127 tons of edible garbage every day . Anchorage residents often store garbage outside in plastic bags or flimsy plastic containers. As many as one-third of households in many neighborhoods heap garbage on the curb the night before collection day, giving bears all night to sift through it. Leaving garbage in view of a city street on any day other than collection day is a violation of municipal code. The crux of a bear’s nature is to gain access to nutritious food. Our garbage is often more nutritious – in terms of sugar,...Rick Sinnott
When the man standing next to the bike rack at the Fred Meyer store adjusted his shirt, he flashed an object -- gunmetal-gray steel with a green grip -- tucked into the small of his back. In Anchorage it might have been a handgun, perhaps a Beretta semiautomatic with dirty olive G10 grips . But this was Portland. When he leaned forward, the firearm turned into a bike lock. I can list a hundred ways that Portland differs from Anchorage. Bikes and guns would be near the top of that list. Anchorage may never have as many cyclists as Portland, but it can strive to promote bicycle commuting, ameliorate dangerous conditions, and teach its sometimes surly motorists how to drive in mixed company. This summer and next the city plans to double its bike lanes , from 15 to 34 miles, and is painting “...Rick Sinnott
Anchorage stinks. Americans discard approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. On any given day Alaska’s largest city, perched on the edge of bear country, holds nearly a thousand tons of rotting food. When the odiferous waste inevitably attracts bears, the most popular solution is not to move the trash, but to punish the bears. It’s as if we don’t want to inconvenience the people who are causing the problem. This strategy has been pursued for the past century, ever since Anchorage was founded. It hasn’t worked yet. Gov. Bill Walker’s role in relocating a black bear and her cubs from Government Hill to Portage Valley is the latest case in point. Not a bear problem Last summer the female black bear routinely led her four cubs into Government Hill , a small, densely...Rick Sinnott
Primary Category: 
When the Alaska Legislature created Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge in 1975, its boundary encompassed mostly publicly owned wetlands between the upstream end of Rabbit Slough and the mouth of Cottonwood Creek. Wetlands don’t respect surveyed boundary lines. Although the wetlands on private...
Rick Sinnott
When the Alaska Legislature created Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge in 1975, its boundary encompassed most publicly owned wetlands between the upstream end of Rabbit Slough and the mouth of Cottonwood Creek. Wetlands don’t respect surveyed boundary lines. Although the wetlands on private property were part of the same complex and were just as valuable as those afforded protection, they were not included in the refuge. Now 40 years old, the 45-square-mile refuge has grown into one of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s most popular destinations for hunters, anglers and birdwatchers. The refuge is managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Since the late 1980s the State of Alaska has acquired six once-private parcels in and adjacent to the refuge through purchases and donations...Rick Sinnott
I should have sworn off Roman candles after the state troopers set that moose on fire. The 1998 incident, reported in Mike Doogan’s column in the Anchorage Daily News, with an accompanying photo, is now the stuff of legend. It started when Alaska State Troopers Peter Mlynarik and Sven Skille responded to a complaint of a moose acting like it owned a backyard off Dimond Boulevard. The two troopers had unsuccessfully attempted to squeeze the moose into a nearby greenbelt by yelling and bluff-charging it. That didn’t work, so it was time to unholster the big guns. Roman candles A Roman candle is a firework consisting of a stiff, rolled paper tube holding eight to 10 flammable projectiles that shoot up to 50 or 60 feet before detonating with a loud crack. I was the Alaska Department of Fish...Rick Sinnott
“Grow more moose” is the Alaska Moose Federation’s slogan. “Grow more debts” would be more accurate. Despite receiving millions of dollars in state and federal grants and private donations, the Alaska Moose Federation (AMF) is struggling to pay its debts. Unable or unwilling to pay its lease on the Tanglewood Chalet in south Anchorage, the AMF was sued in 2013 by the building’s owners and appears to have recently settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Over the past decade, the AMF has singlehandedly wrested some aspects of moose management from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The private, nonprofit organization has demanded custody of orphaned moose calves, attempted to relocate adult moose from Anchorage to rural areas, privatized the salvage of road-killed moose...Rick Sinnott
Dall sheep populations have been shrinking across Alaska for two decades. No one knows that better than sheep hunters -- one reason why the Alaska Board of Game has fielded more than 110 proposals to change sheep hunting regulations the past five years. Most of the proposals are designed to handicap the other guy. In general, Alaska hunters would like to restrict nonresidents and guides, while the guides want the state to maintain or provide more opportunities for nonresidents, who make up the bulk of their clients. It’s the Board of Game’s job to sort out competing claims, always putting the resource, the sheep, first. The board will consider changes to Dall sheep hunting regulations throughout Southcentral Alaska in two upcoming meetings. Its balancing act will be greatly facilitated by...Rick Sinnott
The largest city in Alaska, my hometown, is finally 100 years old. For much of its history, Anchorage has been a city in search of a slogan. Its first slogan is virtually unknown. On a photograph of Anchorage snapped in 1915 by Alberta Pyatt , someone, probably Pyatt, scrawled “Anchorage, Alaska, The White City.” The nascent settlement, clustered between wooded bluffs near the mouth of Ship Creek, amounted to more than 1,000 white canvas tents . When the photo was taken, the remainder of what became the Municipality of Anchorage was covered with forests, bogs and willow thickets. In other words, it was moose country. A poet or copywriter might have dubbed it the City of Moose. Although moose numbers have been declining for at least a decade, there are still more moose in Anchorage today...Rick Sinnott