As sure a sign of spring as anything, the bear sightings are beginning to pile up on the Peninsula. A couple black bears have been reported around Tsalteshi Trails and sightings have occurred along the Sterling Highway between Cooper Landing and Sterling. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area Biologist Jeff Selinger says it's time to be bear aware once again.
“Yep. Bears have been out for a little bit. There’s probably still some of the brown bears up in the high country. If you’ve got sows with cubs of the year, they tend to be the last ones out of the den. Some of those are probably still holed up, but bears are out and active.
Selinger says most bear activity is happening along the coasts, but a few bears have been harvested and brought in to be sealed since the beginning of the year. And he says the same advice is always in effect for people looking to spend a little time in the backcountry, or just keep the bears away from home.
“The biggest thing to do is always be aware that you’re in bear country. Secure food, secure trash. Don’t get focused on the river if you’re fishing along the bank. Use all your senses. Use your sense of smell, because if you can smell rotted fish or a moose or something that died over the winter, know that there could be bears in the area looking to feed on that. Around the home, pick up the garbage, look at your barbeque grills and make sure they’re cleaned up and not full of grease, it’s time to take down the bird feeders so there isn’t bird seed out that the bears can eat.”
Common sense, in other words. And not just as it pertains to bears. Moose calves will start showing up soon, too.
“That friendly, neighborhood moose you’ve known for awhile may be a little bit agitated if it feels its calves are being threatened by people or dogs. Just be aware of those things when we’re out in the woods this time of year.”
Overall, Selinger says population estimates for moose look pretty good on the southern peninsula, south of the Kasilof River. Other areas aren’t in quite as good of shape, but that could be changing around the central peninsula, where fires in recent years have cleared the way for some prime feeding grounds.
“We’re seeing better conditions there, signs of some decent browse regenerating in there, the willows, the aspen and the birch are coming back there in spots and it’s producing some pretty good forage. We did a census up there. Our numbers are looking like they’re going to be in the moose-per-square mile range. That area is still regenerating from the Funny River fire. But relative to what we had in that country 15-20 years ago, our moose numbers are low there, as well. ”
Selinger says over the next 4-5 years, if other conditions allow, we may begin to see moose taking advantage of that fresh growth by way of more successful breeding and perhaps, better population numbers.