Officials Forced to Kill Another Black Bear at Alaska Homeless Campground

by Emily Morgan

Alaskan wildlife officials have killed another black bear at a homeless campground, making this the fifth bear slain this month.

The campground in Anchorage recently began using its property to shelter homeless people. On July 20, officials were called to the campground after onlookers saw the black bear entering numerous tents in search of food.

After arriving, Alaska Wildlife Troopers shot and killed the adult male black bear.

The Alaskan campground is located in the city’s Centennial Park in east Anchorage near Chugach State Park. The area is known to be heavily populated with black bears as well as brown bears.

Formerly a recreational campground for families, the property has served as a safe haven for the homeless since the municipal government shut down a local arena.

The arena formerly housed hundreds of homeless people and cleared an outdoor homeless camp impacted by local fires. However, in recent months, bear conflicts have increased since the city started allowing homeless people into Centennial park. It opened the park up to homeless people in late June.

On July 5, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game shot and killed a female black bear, two cubs, and a male bear. Previously, Anchorage police reported the bears were entering tents to get food, trash, and people’s personal hygiene items.

According to a press release, black bear sightings were common at the campground even when it was used for recreational camping.

However, campground staff had partnered with the department to make campers aware of proper food storage rules to keep the bear sightings down.

Additionally, it’s becoming harder to enforce rules against keeping food in tents. Over 200 people are currently living in the campground.

Black bear sightings continue to rise in Alaska, California

“Grills, fire rings, and picnic tables are everywhere, with meals and snacks distributed throughout the day,” the Anchorage Daily News reported. “It’s difficult to abide by best practices for living outdoors in bear country.”

Moreover, the Centennial Campground is located near the home of the Alaskan native people known as the Chugach tribe.

Additionally, it’s also close to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the military base where a brown bear killed a U.S. Army staff sergeant during a training exercise in May.

The ADFG release noted that the two sites “represent vast areas of bear habitat.”

“Killing any particular bear is a very temporary solution,” ADFG biologist Dave Battle Battle said. “There are always going to be more bears in that vicinity because of its location. We can’t teach bears not to eat what they can find.”

In northern California, residents are also reporting more bear sightings. According to bear experts, an increase in sightings could be due to a bear’s hibernation.

“Hibernation is a response to food shortage,” said Heather Johnson, an animal research biologist with the USGS Alaska Science Center.