FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Researchers expected Alaska bears to hibernate a bit longer, but at least one grizzly near Fairbanks gave them a mid-April surprise.
Traps intended to snag live coyotes and lynx were instead tripped by what appeared to be a wandering grizzly, who passed through the area twice — on his second trip stopping to knock over a trail camera before lumbering off.
The sighting has prompted local officials to tell people in rural areas outside Fairbanks to pull in bird feeders and empty their yards of anything that smells edible, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
It’s the first bear sighting that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks has received in what has been a cold, snowy spring.
“It came around a couple of times,” said UAF researcher Knut Kielland, who managed to get a fuzzy image of the bear on a trail camera he set up.
The bear tripped one of the traps April 4, and technician Karl Olson went to check on it. He came back and told Kielland it looked like a bear had tripped the trap, based on the tracks he saw. He snapped a picture of the bear’s tracks in the woods and on the Tanana River and reset the trap, figuring the bear had left the area.
Two days later, however, another trap alarm was tripped, and this time Kielland went to check on it with his dog team. He was mushing down the trail with five dogs when he spotted bear tracks leading down the trail.
“At first, I thought it was a black bear, because the tracks weren’t very big,” Kielland said.
But upon closer inspection, Kielland positively identified it as a grizzly. At that point, Kielland, who was using snares with a stop on them to live-trap coyotes and lynx, pulled his traps.
“I didn’t want to catch a bear,” he said.
With the weather warming up and snow starting to melt, more bears should be waking up soon, Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms said.
“The cold weather has kind of slowed things down,” she said, “but it would be pretty surprising if we don’t start seeing more bears soon.”
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com.