4 black bears killed in Alaska campground set aside for homeless

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Wildlife officials in Alaska shot and killed four black bears this week at a campground that had been reserved for homeless people after an Anchorage shelter was closed down last week.

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In a news release, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said it killed a sow and two cubs, and another adult male bear, at Centennial Campground in East Anchorage.

The bears, the agency said, “were entering tents to access food and other attractants, including personal hygiene items and trash.”

Homeless people had been directed to the campground in late June after Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson shuttered the city-run Sullivan Arena as a mass homeless shelter, the Anchorage Daily News reported. More than 150 people were camping at Centennial Campground as of last week, according to the newspaper.

The city also relocated dozens of people to the campground by bus, Alaska Public Media reported.

The Department of Fish and Game said Anchorage residents share the municipality with nearly 350 American black bears and up to 65 brown bears, according to The Associated Press.

“Certainly it’s a busy bear time for us all across Anchorage,” department spokesperson Cynthia Wardlow told the news organization.

Dave Battle, the department’s Anchorage-area biologist, said in a statement that killing bears was “a very temporary solution,” adding that “there are always going to be more bears in that vicinity.”

“We can’t teach bears not to eat what they can find,” Battle said.

Wildlife officials use 12-gauge shotguns to shoot the bears, Wardlow told the Daily News. Sometimes the state is able to avoid killing bear cubs, often by placing them at out-of-state locations, but they were unable to do so in this case, she said.

“Once we run out of placement options, we do have to euthanize those animals,” Wardlow told the newspaper.

“Bears entering tents or other structures pose a risk to human safety,” Fish and Game said in its news release. “A bear that is considered a public safety threat, or involved in an attack, may be killed by the Department.”