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Bears

Bear Dens (mp3, Transcript)

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Bear Dens

I was hunting in the late fall and my companion and I came upon an unusual tree. It was a good size live spruce, broken off part way up. What was unusual were the marks on the bark. There was a clear path up the tree, worn spots in the bark, on limbs and the broken nubs of limbs, as if someone with muddy feet had repeatedly climbed up and down the tree, taking the same route. We didn't realize it, but there was almost certainly a bear hibernating inside that tree.

Biologists in Southeast Alaska have found that it is very common for black bears to hibernate in cavities in trees, inside hollow trees, and in cavities in the root wads underneath big trees. Biologists collared and tracked 65 black bears on Prince of Wales Island located 52 bear dens, and every one was associated with trees. Prince of Wales Island is famous for its many limestone caves, but none of those 65 bears hibernated in caves - they were all in trees.

Bears' prepare their dens in the fall by making repeated trips to the den with mouthfuls of branches, evergreen boughs and other vegetation, making a cozy nest for their winter sleep. A number of the dens were "elevated dens" in trees, literally bear nests, up off the ground in cavities, and hollows in broken-top trees. Researchers found that bears re-use the dens year after year.

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Bear Meat Trichinosis (mp3, Transcript)

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Bear meat

On a spring night, a party of bear hunters is cooking some bear meat over their campfire. They're celebrating their successful hunt, and sampling some of the fresh meat. Unfortunately, they don't cook the meat completely and a few weeks later they all get sick, feeling weak and feverish with muscle pain. They've got trichinosis, a disease caused by a parasite in bear meat that's now in their muscle tissue.

The parasite trichinella is a tiny round worm with an adult and a larval stage. The larvae migrate from the stomach and intestines into muscle, and it's the larvae in the muscles that causes the pain. Eventually the immune system will kill the adults, the larvae will become encysted, and the symptoms will pass.

Trichinella is common in Alaska's bears, wolves, foxes, coyotes, lynx; and in marine mammals like seals and walrus. The trichinella parasite in Alaska's bears is closely related to the trichinella in domestic livestock, but it's a much tougher creature. It's arctic adapted and can survive frozen for years. That's how it spreads - scavengers feed on the carcass of a dead, infected animal and the parasite gets a new host. It can also tolerate higher temperatures than the pork parasite. Bear meat should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees and rest at that temperature for at least three minutes when it's cooked. The hunters' campfire was probably hot enough, but they didn't thoroughly cook the meat.

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Bear Nests (mp3, Transcript)

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Bear Nests

I was hunting in the late fall and my companion and I came upon an unusual tree. It was a good size live spruce, broken off part way up. What was unusual were the marks on the bark. There was a clear path up the tree, worn spots in the bark, on limbs and the broken nubs of limbs, as if someone with muddy feet had repeatedly climbed up and down the tree, taking the same route. We didn't realize it, but there was almost certainly a bear hibernating inside that tree.

Biologists in Southeast Alaska have found that it is very common for black bears to hibernate in cavities in trees, inside hollow trees, and in cavities in the root wads underneath big trees. Biologists collared and tracked 65 black bears on Prince of Wales Island located 52 bear dens, and every one was associated with trees. Prince of Wales Island is famous for its many limestone caves, but none of those 65 bears hibernated in caves - they were all in trees.

Bears' prepare their dens in the fall by making repeated trips to the den with mouthfuls of branches, evergreen boughs and other vegetation, making a cozy nest for their winter sleep. A number of the dens were "elevated dens" in trees, literally bear nests, up off the ground in cavities, and hollows in broken-top trees. Researchers found that bears re-use the dens year after year.

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Bear Scent Marking (mp3, Transcript)

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Bear Scent marking

A black bear in the lush rainforest of Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska is investigating a rub tree. He smells the base of the tree, then stands on his hind legs and stretches to sniff a scratched patch of bark exposing bare wood bleeding sap. The entire encounter is captured on a motion-triggered trail camera nearby.

Bears have an acute sense of smell. It's important for finding food and it also helps them keep track of each other. Bears tend to have overlapping home ranges and they're very interested in the status and dominance hierarchy of their neighbors. Bears use scent marking in many ways, including rubbing against trees, biting and clawing, urinating, and depositing anal gland secretions. Bears also mark the ground while walking, leaving scent in their tracks, using scent glands in their feet.

Researchers studying scent communication behavior in bears, also called chemical signaling, found that brown bears are very deliberate in where they place scent marks, how often they engage in marking behavior, and how much time and energy they invest in scent marking. They select trees located in regularly visited areas where the defense of a resource is needed. Bears place their scent marks strategically to increase the likelihood that the message is received.

Adult males use signals to communicate dominance to other males; females do not appear to use marking trees to advertise their availability (or estrous state) during breeding season.

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Bear Sealing (mp3, Transcript)

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Bear sealing

On a sunny Monday morning in May, state wildlife biologist Ryan Scott measures a bear skull in a big tent behind the Fish and Game office in Douglas. Two more bears await inspection. These aren't complete bears, just the salted hides and skinned heads of black and brown bears harvested over the weekend. Mid-May is the peak of the bear hunting season in Southeast Alaska, and Scott and his colleagues have been busy sealing bears.

Successful bear hunters in Alaska are required to bring the hide and skull of all bears harvested to a Fish and Game or wildlife enforcement office for sealing. Sealing refers to the seals or tags that are affixed to the skull and hides after a 15 or 20 minute inspection.

Scott writes the skull size on the sealing form and pulls a tooth, which will reveal the age of the bear. He asks about the location of the hunt and methods used. In turn, Scott is asked a host of questions by the hunters. Hunters are curious about bears and bear research, eager to learn the age and size of their bears, and today Scott answers more questions than he asks.

Hunters provide a wealth of information that helps biologists make management decisions. The information offers an indirect measure of population trends and over the years, provides insights into the status of the bear population.

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Bear Size (mp3, Transcript)

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Bear size

In the summer of 2016, biologists captured 25 black bears in Prince William Sound, and 20 bears were equipped with GPS collars. Alaska Fish and game and the U.S. Forest Service are partners in the project. Monitoring the bears' movements over the course of three years will provide valuable insights into how bears in Prince William Sound use their habitat, what preferences they have for beaches, alpine and streamside habitats, and how males and females use the habitat differently.

Researcher Milo Burcham said the bears were smaller in general than he expected. Not because they were unusual, but because people tend to overestimate the size of bears.

"It's a human tendency to think bears are way bigger than they are," he said. "Black bears are smaller than people think - most black bears weigh about as much as an adult man."

Like humans, males tend to be heavier than females. The average size of the Prince William Sound black bears was 185 pounds for the females and 193 pounds for the males. Studies in California showed an even larger gender difference; 190 pounds for males and about 130 pounds for females. The energetic demands of having cubs, nursing and caring for cubs is a big reason why females tend to be smaller.

Seasonal variation is very pronounced: a bear fattened up and ready for hibernation weighs about 30 percent more than it does in spring when it emerges from the den. Coastal black bears with access to salmon tend to be larger than other bears - black bears on Kuiu Island in southeast Alaska averaged about 250 pounds.

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Bears and Bees (mp3, Transcript)

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Bears and Bees

On a sunny summer day in Southcentral Alaska, a field of fireweed is abuzz with honeybees. One fat bee, full of nectar and loaded with pollen flies slowly to the beehive - a wooden box behind an electric fence. These aren't wild bees - they are tended by a beekeeper.

There are no native bees in Alaska that gather in hives and produce honey. Alaska's native bees are more solitary in nature, but beekeepers in Alaska do import European honeybees for making honey. Occasionally, swarms of bees, including the queen, will abandon beekeeping operations if conditions become too crowded. Those swarms of bees can form a new colony in the wild and produce honey, but they can't survive Alaska's cold winter out in the elements.

Bears eat honey and are attracted to beehives. But beekeepers report that bears are often more interested in eating the bees and larvae inside the beehive, and have even been known to eat the larvae and leave the honey. Bees and larvae are a good source of protein, and both black and brown bears tear apart rotten logs and decaying stumps to get insect grubs and larvae.

Wildlife managers recommend that beekeepers use electric fences to keep bears out of their beehives. Several strand fences work better than one strand. It also helps if beekeeping operations are placed in open areas, away from the cover of forests or bear travel routes.

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Birdseed bears (mp3, Transcript)

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Birdseed bears

A mixed flock of juncos and chickadees are gathered at a bird feeder. It's late fall in Alaska, and most bears have gone into their dens for winter hibernation. Many Alaskans enjoy feeding birds through the long, lean winter months. But when spring arrives, it's time to put away those bird feeders, because in many places, bird feeders are a major attractant for bears. Although tiny bird seeds seem like an unlikely draw for a bear, bird seed is high in protein and fat, exactly what a hungry bear is looking for in the spring after emerging from hibernation.

Although tiny bird seeds seem like an unlikely draw for a bear, bird seed is high in protein and fat, exactly what a hungry bear is looking for in the spring after emerging from hibernation. And bird feeders are loaded with seeds.

When bears first come out from their winter dens, they eat the first green vegetation they find - often grasses and plants growing on beaches and avalanche slopes, supplemented with any winter-killed carrion their super-sensitive noses can lead them to. This diet is usually insufficient help bears regain the body weight they lost during their long, winter fast. During early spring, bears are still losing weight and making use of their stored fat reserves from the previous fall. Bears may not begin actually gaining weight until the early summer berry crop ripens. A bird feeder in the spring is a major find for a hungry bear.

Bird feeders should be taken down after April first. In spring and summer, there is plenty of natural food for birds, and there's no need to continue feeding them. The birds will be fine - and so will the bears.

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Blind Baby Bears (mp3)

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Brown Bear Gender (mp3, Transcript)

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Brown bear - male or female

A hunter is pursuing a brown bear. He's spotted one in an estuary and he's been watching it closely through binoculars for almost an hour. Finally he sees what he's looking for, lowers his binoculars, and slips away. It's a female bear, and he's not interested in taking a female bear.

It's never legal in Alaska to take a female bear accompanied by cubs. Hunters typically watch bears long enough to determine there are no cubs present. This female does not have cubs, so she is legal. But the hunter still passes. He wants a bear, but he wants to minimize his impact on the bear population in this area. Taking a female bear means fewer cubs in the future.

Brown bears have a low reproductive potential compared to other large mammals. A female bear typically does not have a first cub until it is at least five years old, sometimes older. She will have a cub or cubs only every three or four years, so they are not particularly prolific.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has produced a handy color booklet that details how to identify male a female brown bears. Dozens of pictures and tips highlight the subtle and not so subtle differences in appearance and behavior. The guide is popular with bear viewers as well as hunters and it's free at most Fish and Game offices.

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Do Bears Eat Honey? (mp3, Transcript)

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Do bears eat honey?

On a sunny summer day in Southcentral Alaska, a field of fireweed is abuzz with honeybees. One fat bee, full of nectar and loaded with pollen flies slowly to the beehive - a wooden box behind an electric fence. These aren't wild bees - they are tended by a beekeeper.

There are no native bees in Alaska that gather in hives and produce honey. Alaska's native bees are more solitary in nature, but beekeepers in Alaska do import European honeybees for making honey. Occasionally, swarms of bees, including the queen, will abandon beekeeping operations if conditions become too crowded. Those swarms of bees can form a new colony in the wild and produce honey, but they can't survive Alaska's cold winter out in the elements.

Bears eat honey and are attracted to beehives. But beekeepers report that bears are often more interested in eating the bees and larvae inside the beehive, and have even been known to eat the larvae and leave the honey. Bees and larvae are a good source of protein, and both black and brown bears tear apart rotten logs and decaying stumps to get insect grubs and larvae.

Wildlife managers recommend that beekeepers use electric fences to keep bears out of their beehives. Several strand fences work better than one strand. It also helps if beekeeping operations are placed in open areas, away from the cover of forests or bear travel routes.

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Electric Fences and bears (mp3, Transcript)

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Electric fences for bears

On a beautiful spring day in Southcentral Alaska, a two year old black bear is peeking through the foliage at a house in a rural neighborhood. There are bee hives in the backyard, and he's interested. He's not going into the yard, though. Last week he cautiously approached the hives and encountered an electric fence. The painful, harmless jolt of electricity provided a memorable deterrent. He turns and moves back into the forest in search of more appropriate food.

Electric fences are increasingly popular in Alaska's bear country. Backpackers, rafters and hunters set them up around field camps, and resident use them to protect smoke houses, chicken coops and sheds containing livestock feed and other bear attractants.

An electric fence carries a high voltage, low amperage charge, delivered in short pulses. Fence kits can be purchased, but many Alaskans save money by buying the components separately and assembling the fences themselves. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game website offers detailed information about chargers, wire and fence posts, building a gate and maintaining an electric fence. The website also features three short videos that demonstrate all the parts of an electric fence, and how to set one up at home and in the field.

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Fall bears (mp3, Transcript)

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Fall bears

As fall comes to Alaska, bears across the North country prepare to hibernate. Bears that can still find food into October, like late season salmon or groundcone roots, may continue feeding for a few weeks, but by November most Alaska bears have denned up. Black bears in southeast Alaska typically den up in hollow trees and in the spaces under the root wads of big standing trees. Bears make multiple trips into the den carrying mouthfuls of vegetation, boughs and branches, to make a bed to insulate them from the cold ground. A mother black bear with cubs of the year will hibernate with her cubs, and a pregnant female will have her cubs mid-winter, while she hibernates. The tiny baby bears will nurse during the winter and emerge in the spring with their mother.

Brown bears on Admiralty Island tend to move up into the alpine and den up in rock cavities and crevices, places that will stay cold and dry all winter. A bear does not want a mid-winter thaw or rain to flood its den.

Come spring, bears will gradually emerge from their dens. In Southeast, that tends to be early April for male bears, and mid-to-late April for sows with cubs. Bears lose about one-third of their body weight during hibernation, fat reserves that supported them throughout their long winter fast.

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Glacier Bay bears (mp3, Transcript)

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Glacier Bay Bears

A coastal brown bear is beach combing in Glacier Bay, flipping over rocks and small boulders and gobbling up the fish and invertebrates she uncovers. Glacier Bay is a land still emerging from the ice age - the entire bay was filled with ice just 250 years ago and opened relatively recently. Bears, and a few some other animals, were isolated in small refuges of unglaciated habitat.

Park service biologist Tania Lewis was curious about the biological history of the brown bears of Glacier Bay. By sampling DNA in the fur of more than 100 brown bears throughout the Glacier Bay area, she discovered three distinct populations of animals: bears that moved in and colonized Glacier Bay from the Chilkat region around Haines to the northeast, bears that moved in from the Yakutat Forelands to the northwest, and bears that are unique just to Glacier Bay.

The bears unique to the Bay are a remnant population, the population that was isolated in refugia during the ice age. Today the three genetic groups overlap in northern Glacier Bay, but the mix is low, indicating recent immigration.

Lewis says the Glacier Bay brown bears are smaller than their cousins, bold but not aggressive. Because the land is new, they rely heavily on intertidal areas for food, which is why they so often can be found on the beaches and shorelines.

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Grizzly Bears Eat Bugs (mp3, Transcript)

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Grizzly bears eat bugs

On a cool summer morning on a beach in Glacier Bay, we come across a log that's been torn up by a bear. In the beach grass well above the high tide mark, the log is riddled with tunnels excavated in the wood by beetle grubs. Long claw marks striate the wood, clearly showing how the bear raked into the log and tore apart the wood.

Insects are an important part of bears' diet. Beekeepers have noted that bears raiding hives will target the bees and bee larvae as well as the honey - and sometimes they prefer the insects to the honey.

In the Rocky Mountains, a common moth known as the miller is the adult form of the army cutworm caterpillar. Hundreds of thousands of these army cutworm moths can be found concentrated on talus slopes, hiding under rocks. Researchers in Yellowstone National park have documented dozens of grizzly bears - and occasional black bears as well - converging on these talus slopes in summer, turning over rocks to eat the moths. One researcher compared the sites to salmon streams. "We've seen bears feeding within several hundred yards of each other and they seem to tolerate each other."

The moths are a very high-quality food. They are rich in fat. Bears have been documented eating as many as 40,000 moths in a day - which provides 20,000 calories.

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Hidden Bears (mp3)

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Home on the Home Range (mp3, Transcript)

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Home on the home range

A lanky, three-year-old female grizzly bear walks beside a stream in a forest in British Columbia. She's exploring. She was born a dozen miles away, in her mother's home range, and she lived in that watershed until this spring, when her mom chased her out. She's looking to establish her own home range.

This is known as dispersal. A study of grizzly bears in Southwest Canada found that on average, young adult female bears dispersed about 10 miles from the center of their mom's home range, establishing an adjacent home range that is roughly eight miles by eight miles square, or 64 square miles. Dispersing male bears moved about three times as far and had home ranges about three times larger than females.

Productive systems with salmon can support a lot of bears, and their home ranges are relatively small. Bears in less productive systems have much larger home ranges, and need to cover a lot more ground to meet their needs.

Home ranges are not territories, which are defended and exclusive. Bears have overlapping home ranges and are generally tolerant of neighboring bears, as long as they are not competing to be in the same place at the same time, like a choice fishing spot, or competing for a mate. A home range is similar to a territory: animals learn where to find the resources they need throughout the year - for bears that is berry patches, salmon streams and other food sources, and places to den up and hibernate.

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How Old Do Bears Get? (mp3, Transcript)

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The Alaska Zoo in Anchorage is bustling in summer, but this day in July of 2021 is a little subdued. Longtime resident Jake the brown bear has died. Jake arrived at the zoo in 1982 and died in 2021 at the age of 39. According to the zoo, he was the oldest known brown bear living in captivity.

Brown bears may live into their mid-20s in the wild. Biologists in Alaska examine hunter-harvested bears and pull a small tooth called the pre-molar. When a section is cut across the root, enamel laid down annually can be counted like tree rings to determine the bear's age. Knowing the average age of harvested bears helps wildlife managers better understand the effect of hunting on bear populations.

Biologists also learn from marked, wild bears. In 1981 bear researchers tagged a three-year-old brown bear on Admiralty Island in Southeast Alaska. In 2015, a hunter brought in the hide and skull of an Admiralty brown bear and biologists realized it was the same bear. He was 37 years old. The oldest documented brown bears in Alaska were a 38 year old male and a 39 year old female. Jake ties that record - although he certainly had better medical care and less stress than those wild bears.

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Malaspina bears (mp3, Transcript)

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Malaspina Bears

In the remote country west of Yakutat, coastal brown bears are fighting, foraging and exploring a landscape that's still emerging from the ice age. Wildlife biologist Anthony Crupi and fellow researcher Lavern Beier captured 18 brown bears and equipped them with GPS radiocollars, providing researchers with insights into the bears' movements, resource needs, reproduction and seasonal behaviors.

The country around the Malaspina Glacier, where the Southeast Alaska panhandle meets Southcentral Alaska, is a rugged beach landscape of tide flats, wetlands, young forests, rising foothills, barren rock and glaciers. In many places, trees are growing on thin soil over glacial ice. Bears here have large home ranges, covering vast areas in search of food. They come out of hibernation in late April and feed on emerging, green vegetation. Most come straight down to the flats at sea level, eating the first spring green up. Females with cubs avoid other bears; they stay higher up and seek south-facing slopes with green up.

In summer, beach strawberries are an important part of the bears' diet. These bears spend a lot of time beach combing, scavenging dead marine mammals and whatever they can find washed up. In late summer, they feed on salmon. They hibernate in November, later than most brown bears, taking advantage of late season coho in area streams.

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Old bears (mp3, Transcript)

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Old bear

A young adult brown bear is ambling across the alpine on Admiralty Island, easy to spot in contrast to the green open slopes at the headwaters of Greens Creek. It's September 1981, and biologists are watching from a helicopter. They're studying brown bears here, and they dart the bear with an immobilizing drug and equip it with a tracking collar. It's the first time Alaska biologists have darted a bear from a helicopter. They collar and process the 275 pound male bear and estimate his age to be three years old. His eartag designates him as male number 50.

Two summers later, in June of 1983, bear number 50 is recaptured by biologists in the same area. He now weighs 325 pounds, and he's with a larger female. He gets a new collar and transmitter with fresh batteries, and over the years, he's tracked, helping biologists learn how Admiralty bears use their habitat throughout the year.

Flash forward to 2015. A bear hunting guide brings a skull and hide into the Douglas Fish and Game office for inspection. Marks on the hide show this bear was once collared and tagged. Some research into Admiralty bear records narrows it down - this is bear number 50. He was 37 years old, a remarkable age for a brown bear, especially a male bear on Admiralty Island.

Brown bears, also called grizzly bears, are generally considered to live into their mid-20s - females tend to live a little longer than males. The oldest documented brown bears in Alaska were a 38 year old male and a 39 year old female - Admiralty Bear 50 was a remarkably old bear.

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Peaceful bears (mp3, Transcript)

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Peaceful bears

Bears are powerful animals, but that doesn't automatically make them dangerous animals. It's important to be cautious and respectful of bears, but it's also important not to live in fear. The occasional bear attack in Alaska is always well-publicized, but it's important to remember that for every attack there are hundreds or thousands of peaceful, harmless encounters. People outdoors may be unaware that bears are nearby, and the bears overall live and let live attitude keeps it that way.

Black bears in particular are unlikely to be aggressive. The Discovery Foundation, a Juneau-based educational nonprofit group, conducted a study of bear encounters in Juneau. They looked at all the records that existed of people hurt by a bear in Juneau. In a 20-year period, between 1977 and 1977, they found just one. In 1991 a woman was knocked over by a bear that was running past her.

To put that in perspective, they asked the Gastineau Humane Society how many people had been bitten by dogs in a single year. In 1996, 79 people reported being bitten by dogs. Finally, they asked the Juneau police how many records of assaults on people by people were reported in 1996. The answer was 577.

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Prince of Wales Bear Research (mp3)

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Prince of Wales Black Bear Management (Transcript)

Prince of Wales Black Bear Management

Prince of Wales Island in southern Southeast Alaska is popular with black bear hunters. In recent years it's become a little too popular. Historically, hunters harvested about 225 black bears a year from Prince of Wales, but in the late 1990s harvest began increasing, peaking at nearly 500 animals in 2005.

Since then the harvest has steadily decreased. Concerned about overharvest, managers studied harvest records and noted a striking difference between the spring and fall hunting seasons. In the spring, almost 90 percent of the black bears harvested are males. In the fall, hunters take 50 percent males, and 50 percent females. There are several reasons. In the spring, the most popular hunting methods are 1) using a skiff to search tide flats, and 2) using bait to attract a bear. Both methods give hunters an opportunity to watch a number of animals, to see cubs and avoid taking a mother bear, and plenty of the time to size up a bear before shooting.

In the fall, hunters converge on streams where bears are eating salmon. Biologists suspect many big male bears move off the streams in September, and consequently more females and young bears move in. Hunting along salmon streams can be a close-quarters affair and hunters may not have time to judge a bear or watch it long enough to see cubs. The potential for wounding loss is high, because bears that are shot can quickly escape into the thick forest, making it difficult for the hunters to recover them. Fall hunting has the potential to seriously impact the female segment of the black bear population.

To curb the apparent population decline, managers have severely limited hunters' access to salmon streams in the fall. It seems to be working. Last fall, the overall harvest was down about 40 percent - and fewer female bears were taken.

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Seed Dispersing bears (mp3, Transcript)

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Seed dispersing bears

On a late summer morning a bear is poised beside a salmon stream in a sunlit forest, and with a lunge and snap it grabs a fish from a shallow riffle. It fades back into the trees to eat the fish. Salmon rich environments support high densities of bears, in fact, the highest densities of bears in the world are found in salmon-rich areas of Alaska. Those bears have a far reaching effect on the surrounding ecosystem in ways not readily apparent. In addition to salmon, bears also eat a lot of berries, and bear scat containing thousands of berry seeds is dispersed widely throughout the forest. That provides a service to those plants, helping them to spread and become established in new areas. It's also a benefit to small mammals. All those seeds in all that bear scat in the forest is important food for large populations of voles, mice and squirrels. Those small mammals also serve as secondary seed dispersers when they store seeds for winter. Not all those seeds are eaten, and some sprout and grow in the spring.

Researchers found that bears are important in dispersing 12 species of plants, especially devils club and blueberry. Red back voles and deer mice in particular benefit from bear-dispersed seeds, and in some areas, seeds gleaned from bear scat provides about half their daily food.

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Tree Marks (mp3, Transcript)

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Fish Passage

On a beautiful summer day in Southcentral Alaska, a track hoe is at work on a road crossing a salmon stream. A crew is replacing the three very undersized and damaged culverts with a far superior stream simulation culvert. A stream-simulation culvert is as wide as or wider than the creek and either bottomless or embedded below the stream bed. A stream bed is built through the culvert that is similar to the natural stream bed. Most stream simulation culverts have stream "banks" on either side of the stream made of rock that accommodate high flows and allow small animals to move through the culvert. The end result looks more like a bridge than a culvert.

Undersized culverts are barriers to fish. They concentrate the speed and flow of water. This often means the water in the culvert is too fast for fish to swim against. Over time, the concentrated flow coming out of the culvert will wash away the bed of the stream and the culvert will become perched above the stream bed.

Many culverts that are barriers to fish are also prone to plugging with debris during floods, creating problems for maintenance crews. Replacing a road crossing that poses a problem for fish and public safety a win-win situation.

In recent years Fish and Game and partners like the US Fish and Wildlife Service and local boroughs, have replaced or removed 38 barrier crossings, providing unimpeded access to more 95 miles of stream habitat and thousands of acres of lakes.

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Yearling black bears (mp3, Transcript)

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Yearling black bears

In the backyard of a suburban neighborhood in Alaska, a lanky yearling black bear is stretched across a branch in a tree. The homeowner has called fish and game, concerned the bear is abandoned and hungry. It might be hungry, but it's not in trouble. Actually, it is experiencing its first days of independence. It's normal for mother black bears to "kick their cubs loose" in June - cubs that are about a year-and-a-half old.

June is mating season, and the mother bears are becoming interested in adult male bears. A mother black bear with cubs of the year, born a few months earlier during winter hibernation, won't mate this year. But a mother black bear with yearling cubs is generally ready to turn her attention away from her cubs. Sometimes the mother bear will actively chase her cubs away, and sometimes the intimidating presence of an adult male bear contributes to the breaking of the family bond. During this period it's common to see sibling yearlings together, which likely provides some comfort for siblings that have been separated from their mother.

Last year these mother bears taught their cubs what to eat, how and where to forage, and the general life skills they need to survive on their own. The young bears are eating dandelions, grasses and sedges, digging roots and eating insects. As summer progresses, berries and salmon will be available and with any luck, these yearlings will fatten up and be ready to hibernate this fall.

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