Alaska's Kenai Peninsula grizzly deaths soaring

While Anchorage residents this summer worried over how to manage problems with local grizzlies, Kenai Peninsula residents solved their problems the old-fashioned way -- by killing lots of bears.

A record number were dead by the time snow finally encased the Peninsula in winter, said area wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger. He was still tallying the numbers this week, but figures the total is going to end up right around 40 bears shot in self-defense, run down by cars, killed by authorities after being perceived as dangerous, or gunned down illegally and dumped.

It is the second time in three years the death toll has climbed above 20.

The last time so many bears died in such a short span was from 1992 to 1994 when the three-year average hit 23. State biologists then called the kill rate a "cause for alarm.'' And by 1998, the state had declared the Kenai brown/grizzly bear a "species of special concern" -- akin to an animal being placed on the federal endangered species list as "threatened.''

It was the belief in 1998 that the Kenai bear population numbered between 200 and 300 animals and was largely isolated on the Peninsula.

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