The saga of the black bears relocated from Anchorage continued Sunday. This time, it involved chickens in Hope.
At least one of the black bears is suspected of snagging several chickens from a coop behind Tito's Discovery Cafe in the town on Turnagain Arm, said Ken Marsh, Alaska Department of Fish and Game public information officer.
Gina Motoyama, owner of the cafe, said she co-owned the chickens, which were in a coop surrounded by electric fencing. However, on Sunday, the fence was not turned on and a collared black bear crashed through it, she said.
The coop lost 10 of its roughly 30 chickens. Some of the chickens may have escaped but others were eaten, Motoyama said.
Without any other known studies of black bears in the area, Marsh said, "we have to assume they're probably our bears from Government Hill."
Fish and Game announced in April that it would have to kill a black bear sow and her four cubs after they attracted onlookers and foraged through garbage cans in Government Hill, a densely populated neighborhood near downtown Anchorage. But that decision sparked public outcry, and soon after, Gov. Bill Walker called the Fish and Game commissioner to ask if the bears could be moved rather than shot.
On May 1, the agency released the bears near the Chickaloon Flats area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Since then, the bears have been spotted as far west as Nikiski and as far east as Hope, Marsh said.
"They've spent much of their time in the wilderness feeding on natural food," he said Tuesday.
Motoyama said the black bears were seen around Hope in the beginning of May and appear to have returned recently. She said she saw collared bears rummaging through a neighbor's trash Monday night. The neighbor's children used video chat on their cellphones to show their mother the bears' escapades. The trash was not in a bearproof can, Motoyama said.
Lynne Skogstad, who has homes in Hope and Government Hill, said she watched the bears walk down Main Street in Hope on Monday and into the nearby woods. She said she is sympathetic toward the bears and pleased they were moved but disappointed about where they were moved.
"They're not aggressive toward people or toward animals but they do get into trash and they do like their chickens," she said. "Let's hope this story has a happy ending again."
Marsh said the attack on chickens has not prompted much concern at Fish and Game. The agency recommends chicken owners keep them inside electric fences to ward off bears. He said Hope residents live in bear country and know how to live among them.
"This will be handled like any other black bear situation," he said. "These bears aren't any different than the bears that come out of Chugach forest any other time."
Marsh said that if Fish and Game receives repeated reports about the bears getting into Hope garbage or disrupting the community, it will have to re-evaluate the bears' move.
"We're pretty confident that this won't become too big of a problem," he said.
A contracted pilot flew over the area Tuesday and located the bears about six miles west of Hope, Marsh said.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing