Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials said Thursday that because of public safety concerns, they planned to kill a family of five black bears seen roaming through Government Hill, a densely populated neighborhood near downtown Anchorage.
Days earlier, the neighborhood's community council tweeted that the adult sow and four yearling cubs had been spotted. It's the second year the family of bears has returned to the neighborhood. They garnered much attention, said David Saalfeld, a regional wildlife biologist for Fish and Game.
Saalfeld said he was called to Government Hill on Wednesday afternoon. People had surrounded the bears, some snapping photographs with their cellphones. The bears had all climbed up a tree, he said. The sow began huffing and popping her teeth -- a defensive behavior, said Ken Marsh, Fish and Game information officer.
"Yesterday I was very, very, very angry with my fellow human beings," Stephanie Kesler, president of the neighborhood's community council, said Thursday before the council's meeting.
At the evening meeting, Saalfeld announced that Fish and Game had decided to euthanize the bears. It could not relocate them, he said. The bears could transfer disease to other populations, he said, and it was too expensive. If they moved the bears within the Anchorage area, they would probably return, he said.
Also, the Government Hill bears have been getting into trash and, he said, "We're not going to clean up the trash problem."
Saalfeld said there was no specific timeline for when Fish and Game would kill the bears. "It's a fluid situation," he said.
Kesler said after the meeting that the community council hoped to work with the municipality to develop a comprehensive plan for the neighborhood's trash. The community council recently passed a resolution asking Solid Waste Services, the neighborhood's trash service, to add bear-resistant trash bins as an option.
About the Fish and Game announcement, she said, "It's really unfortunate and that's all I can say."
Paul Alcantar, director of Solid Waste Services, also spoke before the community council Thursday. He brought with him a bear-resistant canister. Alcantar said he hoped that the municipality would launch a pilot program with the bear-resistant canisters by the end of winter to see if, come spring, they kept the bears out. But they still must insert the program into the municipality's budget. Alcantar said Thursday night that he did not have a total cost.