Leroy Polk It's not the most unusual sight in Alaska to see bears meandering around in the wild, but it's not every day that four brown bears drag around trash cans for a late night snack on campus.
In video provided by a KTUU viewer, that scene was captured at Eagle River High School. In the video, a mother brown bear and her three cubs can be seen digging in trash and walking around the school grounds.
"They are still in and around our neighborhood, making it difficult to get kids to the school bus or high school," said Margaret Cichoracki, who captured the bears on video. She said she reported the family of bears to Fish and Game.
Ken Marsh, spokesperson with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said that while it can be exciting to see bears, this case is very serious, both for humans and for the bears themselves.
The schools, which do not deploy bear-resistant trash cans, are among other food sources in the Eagle River area that may be delaying the bears' natural hibernation process.
"Bears, especially brown bears, if provided with a continuing food source, may delay their hibernation, and stick around," Marsh said. That's why authorities say it's really important to keep trash locked away.
Brown bears can be especially defensive regarding food sources. Marsh said that black bears can sometimes be scared off, but advises against trying that, especially with brown bears. "With brown bears, that could solicit a charge," Marsh said.
Law enforcement has been informed about the brown bear family spotted around the Eagle River area, and biologists with Fish and Game are actively looking for the bears.
"Ultimately these bears may have to be destroyed," Marsh said. "I hope I'm wrong, I hope that people lock up their trash and that these bears move on up into the mountains to hibernate, but if this continues that could well be the outcome."
In order to avoid injury to human and bear alike, Marsh says that there are a few things you can do to help.
First, Fish and Game recommends keeping trash in bear-resistant cans. This will help deter bears from attempting to break into cans in the first place.
Second, home owners can keep their trash inside until the morning of trash pick up, to shorten the window that bears will have access to the trash.
As for schools and other businesses that may have exterior trash cans that don't have bear-resistant counterparts, Marsh said, "Everyone, everyone is responsible for securing their trash near bear country."