Commentary: A little common bear sense

This editorial appeared in The Anchorage Daily News.

Many of us who live in Anchorage occasionally have bears in the neighborhood. That's not a call to lock and load, and the notion that we're going to hunt bears right out of town is both impractical and unpopular. So is the notion of Gentle Ben, the friendly bear.

The Anchorage Assembly passed an ordinance to hire a "bear technician" just as the bears began awakening and residents resumed last summer's arguments over bears in the city.

As yet, there's no money to hire such a person to manage – or better, prevent – conflicts between bears and people.

Meanwhile the city has put up some information on its Web site, www.muni.org., that provides advice and the means to complain if people are leaving trash or other bear magnets in neighborhoods.

What should be the policy here?

Public safety comes first. Occasionally we should close trails or parts of parks where bears are active. Yes, we're a city and a city is not the wilderness. But Anchorage also is unique in its proximity to wilderness and in having bear habitat within municipal boundaries. Citizens prefer to maintain that semi-wild part of the city, so we're going to make some accommodations for the bears.

Specific examples: Fish and Game has made a common-sense decision to close the Albert Loop Trail out of the Eagle River Nature Center when salmon are spawning, and that's sharply cut bear encounters. The same should be done in parks like Far North Bicentennial.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.

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