Home Biologist After an unprecedented bear year, the Sitka Bear Task Force meets again

After an unprecedented bear year, the Sitka Bear Task Force meets again

14 brown bears were euthanized in Sitka in 2021, the biggest year on record. (Photo courtesy of Meredith Redick)

The first spring brown bears have been spotted in Sitka. Not a moment too soon, the assembly is relaunching a bear task force to address growing bear-human conflicts within the community.

The new task force will spend six months investigating Sitka’s bear history, reviewing the work and suggestions of the last task force established in 2005, as well as studying bear deterrence efforts in other communities. Assemblyman Crystal Duncan, who sponsored the talking point with Rebecca Himschoot, said the decision followed Sitka’s worst year for bear killings in 30 years.

“We want to prevent that,” Duncan said. “And we know it has to start now.”

Last year’s bear activity was unprecedented. Fourteen bears were euthanized in Sitka last year, more than double any year on record since 1980. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska asked the Assembly to prioritize the issue of community bears during the government-to-government meeting this winter. And on March 8, ADF&G wildlife biologist Stephen Bethune told the gathering that the community needed to find a way to solve its litter problem.

“If there is a silver bullet, it won’t solve the problem entirely. But if there was one, one method that is going to have a significant impact on our problems, it’s bear-resistant containers,” he said.

This data, collected by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, shows the number of recorded bears euthanized in Sitka by year. Wildlife biologist Stephen Bethune included this slide in his presentation to the assembly to demonstrate that 2021 was unprecedented, with 14 bears killed. (Town of Sitka)

City administrator John Leach said that whatever the bear task force proposes, there will be a price for the city to consider.

“We’re talking about bear-proof boxes, they’re expensive,” Leach said. “We may not be able to do this in the whole community and we can target areas with high bear traffic. But this has a cost. »

“And if the community wants it, we have to bear that cost. I don’t mean that… there’s a pun there,” Leach said. “But we have to absorb that cost somehow if we’re not able to find it through a grant.”

The task force will be comprised of representatives from ADF&G and the city, Sitka Tribe, BIHA, and Sitka National Historical Park, among other agencies.

The city is also looking for two volunteers to join the task force. Find information on how to apply here.

The City and Borough of Sitka (CBS) is looking for two volunteers to serve on recovery
Sitka Bear Task Force (SBTF). The SBTF will consider previous suggestions from the working group, investigate
efforts in other communities to reduce bear-human conflict, and provide recommendations in return
to the SCB Assembly in six months. Applications will be accepted until March 15, 2022 and
can be found online at www.cityofsitka.com or at the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, 100
Lincoln Street. Call 907-747-1826 or email Clerk@cityofsitka.org for more information.
Publication: March 11 and March 14