Government Hill Black Bears Successfully Captured and Relocated
- ADF&G Press Release

Sam Cotten, Commissioner
P.O. Box 115526
Juneau, Alaska 99811-5526

Press Release: May 1, 2015

Contact: Ken Marsh, Public Information Officer, Division of Wildlife Conservation, (907) 267-2892

Government Hill Black Bears Successfully Captured and Relocated

(Anchorage) – A family of five black bears making news recently in Anchorage’s Government Hill neighborhood has been successfully captured and moved from the city to a remote location where wildlife managers hope the animals will succeed in adapting to a natural, wilderness lifestyle.

“The capture aspect of this project went really well and according to plan,” said Anchorage Area Wildlife Biologist Dave Battle, who worked with other department wildlife biologists for about a week to round up all five bears.

“Safely capturing one or two bears in an urban environment can be hard enough,” he said, “but it really gets complex when you’re talking about five bears.”

Battle added that the relocation was successful thanks to a community effort. “We had help from JBER staff, the Alaska Railroad, and Government Hill residents,” he said. “And we really, really have to thank the Alaska Zoo for helping us by keeping and caring for these animals.”

The bears became well known in Government Hill last summer when unsecured trash drew them to the neighborhood repeatedly for easy meals. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists monitored the animals and worked with the neighborhood and city to secure and remove trash and other human-supplied attractants.

Complaints received by the department dropped off late last fall after the animals presumably denned for the winter. Calls resumed in mid-April, however, when Government Hill residents reported the bears had returned and were turning over trashcans, climbing backyard fences, and drawing throngs of onlookers.

Public safety concerns were raised as the bears grew increasingly bold around people. At the same time, onlookers and photographers were observed pushing boundaries, sometimes creeping close enough to alarm the sow and prompt her to huff and pop her jaws.

After an initial decision was made to kill the bears, requests from the public to spare the sow and four yearling cubs led Gov. Bill Walker and the department to reach a collective decision to instead relocate them.

“As we’ve previously stated, relocation is a short-term solution to what the department views as a long-term issue,” said Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten. “We need to clean up our neighborhoods and address how we can keep trash and other human-supplied attractants away from bears.”

Cotten added that the department viewed the decision to relocate as less an effort to give the bears another chance than to provide Anchorage residents another opportunity to shore up trash and generally become bear aware to prevent similar situations in the future.

The five bears have been fitted with tracking collars and biologists hope to monitor them and learn more about their movements after release. To keep the bears wild and allow them the best opportunity for success in their new environment, the department is not disclosing the relocation site.