Anchorage Daily News has an interesting story today about urban bears (registration required). Last year, Alaska Fish and Game collared several bears near Anchorage to try to find out how many live in and around Anchorage. Now, Anchorage is Alaska's largest town by far, although its population is relatively small, about 250,000 people. Still, it is rather interesting to realize that there are brown bears 500 - 1000 lbs wandering through this urban area. The story has a map of the Anchorage area where one can see where the bears' locations were recorded. These locations were found throughout urban areas, not just the perimeters or parks next to the town.
Where we used to live, in rural Alaska, the bears would come through our yard in the evenings. Sometimes I would find paw prints on the side of my truck from where they had been sniffing the truck after I had run garbage to the dump. I remember September 10, 2001, I came home late because I was set to start a trial the next morning (you can guess why I remember this date). I pulled into the driveway and there was a decent sized bear in the driveway. It was hanging around and not leaving for reasons I never understood. We were always careful with our garbage and fish odors. Anyway, I went inside, grabbed a flashlight and a rifle (don't worry - the bear survives) and went back out to see if I could persuade the bear to leave. It saw the flashlight and so it left the driveway, running toward the shore of the lake we lived on. It went out on the dock where my boat was kept. So, I had to head down to the beach.
I'm sure there are more nerve-racking experiences than chasing a bear away in the dark, but none come to mind right away. I was not looking to kill the bear per se. Rather, I wanted the bear to know that it was unwelcome. Bears become problems when they are habituated to humans and I did not want this bear, or any others for that matter, to get used to coming around my home, particularly since my kids at that time were very young, 4 and 2. Anyway, it was a pretty dark night and I'm shining the flashlight around and, I kid you not, I see this bear in my boat. It looks at me for a bit and I yell at it. At that point, it jumps out of my boat, into the water, and runs away. I followed to make sure it had truly left and it did not come back.
Where I live now there are very few bears. That's too bad. I kind of miss having to chase them out of my back yard. And for further info, the trial did not go the next day because when Bush grounded the airplanes, jurors from surrounding areas could not make it in for jury duty. So the trial got postponed a couple of weeks.