Map reveals movements of urban Anchorage bears

With help from GPS collars and the Internet, humans now have the opportunity to follow the lives of nine urban bears living in or near Alaska's largest city of Anchorage.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game put GPS collars and video cameras on six black bears and three brown bears in the summers of 2012 and 2013 to gather data on the bears' movements.

According to Fish and Game, each of the bears wore the collars for about six weeks. The GPS tracking device recorded the bears' location about every 20 minutes. Cameras attached to the collars recorded video every five minutes for 10 seconds until the batteries died.

The data collected in the tracking program is posted at the Anchorage Urban Bear Story Map at Fish and Game's website. The data includes video, what the bears were doing, where they went and what they were eating. The release notes the bears have "plenty of natural foods" in Anchorage, but because the animals have easy access to human-supplied food sources -- such as garbage, birdseed, and pet food left outside -- there are also "human-bear conflicts."

One of the study's subjects was the sow who has made recent headlines as she roams Anchorage's Government Hill neighborhood with her cubs, Fish and Game said. She is referred to as "Bear 15" in the study.

In another case, a black bear dubbed "Bear 16" traveled along the outskirts of Anchorage along Turnagain Arm, and across Cook Inlet to Fire Island. Bear 16 was tracked eating a moose leg on Fire Island, watching a biker, swimming across Cook Inlet, eating birdseed from a deck, and feasting on seagull eggs.

A video captured one of the brown bears, "Bear 212," being shot at before fleeing a residential area near Chugiak-Eagle River. After it scurried away from the gunfire, Bear 212 was captured chewing on a stick in what Fish and Game described as "displaced aggression." In other moments, the bear rooted through trash or dug out a fresh bed.

Across the map, "Bear 18" spent a significant amount of time in the Potter Marsh and Turnagain Arm areas. The black bear was caught on camera raiding multiple chicken coops, boarding a boat, eating dog food right out of a dish, and carrying a bag of trash across a yard in 2013.

Megan Edge

Megan Edge is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch and Alaska Dispatch News.